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Defending Your Custody Rights

Texas allows for two forms of custody when children are involved in a divorce or a Suit Affecting the Parent-Child Relationship (“SAPCR”). These two custody forms are often called “sole custody” or “joint custody.” Texas child custody law is based on a child’s best interest standard, and the general presumption at the start of any case is that children are best served when they have two parental figures in their lives, even when and if the parents are separated. Custody awards may be rendered as part of temporary orders and/or final orders by the court.

At Izzo & Associates, PLLC, our goal is to help our clients through all the challenges of their family law needs. We have decades of experience representing clients through their custody needs and helping them understand child custody laws in Texas. We are here to help you secure the outcome you deserve in your case, whether you are pursuing sole or joint custody.

Sole Custody

Sole custody is generally awarded when one or both biological parents are absent from a child’s life or when a danger exists for the child. These cases often involve situations where family violence, improper drug or alcohol use or physical abuse or neglect of a child has occurred. An adult (who does not have to be a biological parent) may be awarded sole custody, and this adult is named the sole managing conservator. This individual is typically given the exclusive right to make all significant decisions for the child’s benefit in the future, including medical, educational and psychological decisions.

Joint Custody

Another common misconception about child custody laws in Texas is that if joint custody is awarded, it means that two adult conservators will automatically share 50/50 time with their young charges. While this does occur in some family law cases, especially where the parties agree to do so, generally, one conservator will be appointed as the children’s “primary residential conservator,” who will establish the primary residence of the children. The other joint managing conservator will typically be awarded specified visitation with the children, which varies on a case-by-case basis.

Under a joint managing conservatorship arrangement, conservators generally share in decision-making for their children (except that, in most cases, only one conservator is granted the right to determine the children’s primary residence and to receive child and medical support). It should be noted that the title “residential conservator” does not need to be awarded if both parties agree, but in contested cases, child custody laws in Texas require a judge to choose one.

Answers To Frequently Asked Questions About Custody/Conservatorship In Texas

We understand that custody matters can be both legally confusing and emotionally charged. Below, we’ve provided answers to some of the most common questions asked by clients and prospective clients. If you have additional questions after reading, please contact our firm to discuss them during an initial consultation.

How do you file for child custody in Texas?

Texas child custody laws require you to file a Suit Affecting the Parent-Child Relationship (SAPCR). This may be filed in conjunction with a divorce petition or on its own with the Clerk of Court in your residential county.

Once the SAPCR is filed, your child’s other parent will be notified and given an opportunity to respond. If the other parent doesn’t respond to the petition, the case may be resolved in your favor by default. If they counter your petition, you may be asked to try to reach an agreement through negotiation. Failing that, you will need to present your case before the court. Attorney guidance throughout this process is essential for a positive outcome.

How does a parent get full custody of a child in Texas?

If you want sole managing conservatorship of your child, you must convince the court that limiting or terminating the other parent’s rights is truly in your child’s best interests. That means that you must have a strong, effective argument and significant evidence that shows that your co-parent is unfit to raise a child. Generally speaking, even if you are granted sole managing conservatorship, the other parent may still be given supervised access to your child – unless their parental rights are entirely severed.

We can help you learn more about how to get custody of a child in Texas and explore the strengths and weaknesses of your position.

What happens after a default judgment in a child custody case?

A default judgment is issued when one parent files a petition with the court related to child custody/conservatorship and the other parent fails to respond or show up to court. Because of the lack of response, the court will typically grant the first parent’s petition by default.

If you’ve been subjected to a default judgment against you, it can have serious negative consequences for your conservatorship rights, your time with your children, your child support obligations and more. By failing to respond in any formal way, the court is left to presume that the defendant parent does not care about the outcome and/or is not responsible enough to take action when the stakes are high.

Of course, there are many legitimate reasons why someone may fail to answer or fail to appear. They might not have been properly served or given notice. They may have made an understandable error or experienced an unforeseen emergency that prevented them from responding.

Whatever the case may be, the defendant can file a motion to vacate the default judgment. However, it is important to file this motion as soon as possible and to seek the help of an experienced family law attorney. Being the subject of a default judgment already puts you in a weak legal position, so your next moves need to be thoughtful and strategic.

Does past drug use affect child custody?

Drug use can certainly be a relevant factor in contested custody/conservatorship cases. Judges will attempt to gain as clear a picture as possible about one parent’s alleged drug use, including the type of drug, frequency of use, recent use and any danger or harm the child has experienced as a result.

If one parent claims that the other has done drugs in the past without providing specifics or context, such an argument will likely carry little weight. If they can show that the other parent is currently abusing drugs and endangering or harming the child as a result, it would likely have a significant impact on how custody/conservatorship is allocated.

Do I need a lawyer for a child custody case?

Legally speaking, it is possible to pursue a custody matter “pro se” or without a lawyer. As a practical matter, however, the help of a good lawyer is critical. A family law attorney can provide the stability and clarity needed at a time when your judgment may be clouded by strong emotions. A knowledgeable attorney also understands how to make compelling arguments to the court that protect your parental rights and the well-being of your children. Finally, a good attorney can ensure that you don’t make mistakes that could irreparably harm your case.

We Are Here For Your Family

If you are looking for help keeping your family together through your divorce, get the guidance of a skilled and committed legal team to look after your family. We are ready to offer you the representation you need to overcome any of the challenges in your divorce, and we can help you learn how to get custody of a child in Texas. Contact us at 512-982-1161 or email us here to schedule your initial consultation today.