Texas Divorce: Fathers Have Rights, Too

A Texas father enjoying parenting time with his son

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If you are a father who is facing a divorce, you may have serious concerns about your child custody rights. Many people believe that mothers have a distinct advantage when it comes to child custody, but the law’s focus is on the best interest of the children in the case at hand.

Protect your parental rights by seeking the skilled legal guidance that experienced Austin divorce attorneys can provide.

Your Rights as a Parent

If you and your children’s mother can negotiate a mutually acceptable parenting time schedule between the two of you, you’ll have considerable scheduling flexibility. However, if you cannot resolve your child custody terms, you’ll need to turn to the court, which will make this important scheduling determination on your behalf.

Finding a way to negotiate the terms of physical custody between yourselves successfully is almost universally considered advantageous, but if this isn’t a possibility, you’ll need the court’s intervention.

The Court’s Position

Texas courts do not take the sex of the parent into account when making child custody decisions. Instead, they focus on the best interests of the children involved. However, each child’s developmental needs will be taken into consideration, and in some instances, the mother has the advantage.

For example, if the child is very young and is being nursed by the mother, this fact can affect how parenting time is allocated.

The following kinds of factors can guide Texas child custody rulings:

  • Each child’s needs, including needs related to their age, developmental stage, and any special needs

  • Each parent’s preference regarding parenting time

  • The preference of each child who is considered mature enough to participate in the process

  • Each parent’s level of involvement in raising the children up to the time of the divorce

  • Each parent’s ability to effectively address each child’s needs

  • Each parent’s commitment to effective co-parenting

  • The degree to which each parent supports the children’s ongoing relationship with the other parent

  • How well the children have adapted to their current home, school, daycare, and community

None of these best interest factors specifically support the mother over the father except to the degree that mothers are more likely to take the following actions:

  • Quit their jobs or work part-time schedules in order to stay home with the children

  • Spend more time with the children

  • Take up the role of primary custodial parent in the course of a separation

Every child custody case is determined on an individual basis – taking a wide range of concerns into careful account. If you’re a father who wants to maximize your parenting time schedule, it’s important to recognize that you have important rights as a parent and that focused local divorce lawyers can help you protect these rights.

Equal or Near-Equal Parenting Time Is the Court’s Starting Position

Texas courts believe that children are better off when parenting time schedules balance their time with both parents – or come close to doing so. Unless there is a reason for ruling otherwise, the court will set a schedule that attempts to equalize the amount of parenting time awarded to each spouse.

If you and your ex will be living a considerable distance from one another, this may be difficult to accomplish, but Texas courts also have standard parenting time schedules that allow the ex who isn’t in the role of primary custodial parent longer stretches of time with the kids in the summer and during school breaks and holidays.

There are many options when it comes to child custody schedules, and an accomplished divorce lawyer in Austin, Texas, can help you find a good match for your unique situation.

It’s Not All about Physical Custody

The State of Texas addresses child custody in terms of both physical and legal custody. While physical custody determines your parenting time schedule, legal custody assigns important decision-making authority regarding matters like the following:

  • The medical care your children receive

  • The education your children receive

  • The religious upbringing your children receive

  • The extracurricular activities and travel your children participate in

Legal custody is an important component of your parental rights as a father, which means you shouldn’t lose sight of it in your child custody case.

Resolving Your Custody Concerns between Yourselves

When you file for a divorce in Texas, child custody has the potential to become one of the most challenging terms. However, you and your divorcing spouse will be afforded many opportunities to negotiate a mutually acceptable resolution. If hashing the matter out between yourselves does not get the job done, mediation might.

At mediation, you, your divorcing spouse, and your respective divorce attorneys will meet with a professional mediator who will serve as a neutral third party. The mediator will help you understand how the judge handling your case is likely to rule, which can help you gain a better perspective in relation to your own negotiations.

Mediation can be especially beneficial because many couples are highly motivated to make their own child custody arrangements – especially as court dates loom closer.

Know the Standard Possession Orders

As mentioned, when Texas courts are called upon to make child custody determinations, they generally turn to standard possession orders, which dictate the parenting time schedule of the noncustodial parent. The basic schedule includes the following arrangements:

  • Visitation on the first, third, and fifth weekend of each month – generally from 6 PM on Friday to 6 PM on Sunday

  • 30 days of visitation during summer break

  • Alternating holidays

An expanded visitation schedule is also available, which includes the following arrangements:

  • Visitation from after school on Friday to before school on Monday on the first, third, and fifth weekend of each month

  • Visitation from 6 PM to 8 PM – or an overnight – every Thursday

To learn more about standard possession orders in Texas, contact a knowledgeable Austin child custody attorney.


If you are facing concerns related to your parental rights as a father, it can help to understand the answers to some of the questions that others in your shoes are most likely to ask. You can also consult with an Austin custody lawyer to understand more about your specific case.

If My Ex Refuses to Let Me See My Kids, Can I Refuse to Pay Child Support?

If you have a child support obligation, you are required to pay the court-ordered amount, regardless of your ex’s antics. Texas courts distinguish between child support and child custody – and both are ordered according to the children's interests.

By refusing to allow you to see your children, your ex is not upholding your children’s best interests. Failing to pay child support also harms your kids. The matters are separate in the eyes of the court, and parents don’t have the legal right to take them into their own hands.

If your ex is refusing you the parenting time to which you are legally entitled, it’s time to take the matter up with the court.

Can the Father Become the Primary Custodial Parent?

Contrary to popular belief, fathers can become the primary custodial parent. Ultimately, the court does not show preference to either parent when they make child custody rulings. While mothers may have a perceived advantage, it’s generally based on the fact that they are somewhat more likely to check more of the boxes when it comes to best interest factors.

Texas courts are guided by the children’s best interests, and they take a neutral stance. If you can demonstrate that your children’s best interests are better served by you becoming the primary custodial parent, the court will carefully consider your position.

At What Age Can Children Voice Their Own Child Custody Preferences?

In Texas, the court will hear a child’s preference on the matter of child custody arrangements only if he or she is considered old enough and mature enough to be involved in the decision-making process and to share their reasonable preferences. This maturity level usually means at about the age of 12, but every case is considered individually.

While the court may take the child’s preference for the custody order into consideration, it won’t be the deciding factor.

Can I Seek a Child Custody Modification?

Texas courts grant child custody modifications when they are in the best interest of the involved children. Modifications are typically granted based on a significant change in circumstances that makes the current parenting plan less than ideal.

You and your ex can determine a mutually acceptable modification that suits your changed circumstances, but it’s important to change your child custody terms officially through the court. Your current orders remain legally binding until officially modified, and if your ex changes his or her mind later, you could be found in contempt of court.

If you and your ex are not in agreement, you’ll need to seek a modification through the court in pursuit of terms that better suit your family’s needs. When the court finds that a modification will benefit the involved children, it’s likely to be granted.

When Is Supervised Visitation Required?

Texas courts begin with the presumption that spending a considerable amount of time with both parents is in children's best interests. The court will only curtail a parent’s parenting plan if there is a serious reason for doing so. Further, if one parent is deemed to jeopardize the children’s emotional or physical health and well-being, the court will either require supervised visits or end visits altogether.

How Can I Prove that I’m as Involved in My Children’s Lives as Their Mother Is?

Traditionally, mothers provide most of the childcare, which tends to include carting the children to activities and being more involved in their daily lives. However, some fathers are just as involved as mothers – or more so.

If you’re interested in showing the court that you play a primary role in your children’s daily activities, it’s important to demonstrate that you are well versed in primary information like the following:

  • Your children’s health information, including any allergies

  • Your children’s schedules

  • Your children’s special needs

  • Your children’s extracurricular activities

  • Your children’s daycare and school information, including the grades they’re in and the names of their teachers

  • Your children’s birth dates

Will My Children Need to Appear in Court?

Children generally aren’t involved in child custody cases. Children only become involved if one of the parents files a motion for a child or children to confer with the court. Such motions allow children to share their preferences on the matter of child custody, and they are usually addressed in the judge’s chambers, which means your child won’t be part of the child custody proceeding itself.

How Do We Address Child Custody while Our Divorce Is Pending?

If you and your divorcing spouse are living separately while your divorce is pending, and you can’t reach a mutually acceptable decision about how to divide your time with the children, you can seek temporary orders.

However, if your goal is becoming the primary custodial parent, it’s important to note that the court will take the status quo into consideration, which means that leaving the family home while your divorce is pending may not work in your favor. The parent who remains in the family home with the children while the divorce is pending may have a leg up when it comes to becoming the primary custodial parent.

Consult with an Experienced Divorce Lawyer in Austin Today

Brett Pritchard at The Law Office of Brett H. Pritchard in Austin is a practiced divorce attorney with a wealth of experience fiercely protecting the parental rights of fathers like you – who often feel at a disadvantage in relation to child custody. To learn more about your legal rights and how we can help protect them, please don’t put off contacting us online or calling us at (254) 781-4222 today.

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