Austin Child Custody Attorney
Texas Conservatorship Laws
The state of Texas expects both parents to be involved in their children’s lives following a divorce. Parents are given titles that designate their rights, duties, and possession of the child after the divorce. For example, one parent may have primary residential custody while the other parent is expected to pay child support. Obviously, the parent that receives the right to decide the child’s primary residence will get to spend more time with the child, but the other parent may still have visitation rights.
The divorce process can pit the two parties against each other as adversaries, but it doesn’t have to be that way, especially if there are children involved. Parents can agree on a solution without having to go to court and mediation is particularly helpful for divorcing couples who can agree on the terms of their custody arrangement.
How Is Custody Determined in Texas?
Child custody is actually known as “conservatorship” in Texas. There are several factors that are used to determine who of the two parents will live with the child after divorce.
The following are issues the court will consider when determining custody:
- The child’s safety, health, and welfare
- The child’s relationship with each parent
- The mental and physical state of each parent
- The parental history of each parent
- The wishes of the child if the child is at least 12 years old
The parent that has been the primary caregiver for most of the child’s life will generally receive primary residential custody.
The other parent will be able to visit the child during the following periods:
- 30 days in the summer
- On alternating holidays
- The first, third, and fifth weekend of the month beginning Thursday and ending Sunday evening or Monday morning
If the parents live far apart, there will be a different visitation schedule to accommodate that. Parents are allowed to create a schedule that fits their children’s needs and their own routines.
How Do You Prove a Mother/Father Unfit in Texas?
The following reasons could be used to prove a mother and/or father unfit for custody in Texas:
- A history of drug or alcohol abuse
- A history of sexual offenses
- A history of abuse (emotional and/or physical)
- Living conditions that are not suitable for the child
- An unstable environment
- A history of family violence
Investigation and evidence is required to substantiate these points, but once proven, any of them would deem a parent unfit for custody.
Managing Conservator, Joint Managing Conservators & Custodial Parents
Parents that are divorcing are often named joint managing conservators in Texas. This means that both parents share the educational, religious, and medical decisions concerning the child. The parent that lives with the child is often called the custodial parent while the other parent is called the non-custodial parent. In a situation where parents can’t agree or one parent is impaired, one parent may be named the managing conservator. However, there are cases where none of the child’s parents can decide where the child lives.
How Is Paternity Determined With Unmarried Parents?
The legal parentage of the child has to be established first before child custody can be determined if the parents are unmarried.
In Texas, paternity can be established in the following ways:
- The court can issue an order on parentage
- Both of the unwed parents can sign an acknowledgment of paternity
- The parties involved can get married
Parents should complete an Application for a New Birth Certificate Based on Parentage. That new document will include the name of the father.
Child Protective Services Cases
Texas’ Child Protective Services (CPS) is responsible for protecting children and ensuring they have stable homes. Unfortunately, because the agency takes matters of neglect and abuse so seriously, sometimes good people are caught in bad situations or accused of wrongdoing due to a misunderstanding.
At Hembree Bell Law Firm, PLLC, we have extensive experience representing families navigating CPS cases. Whether you have been accused of child abuse and are under investigation or you have filed accusations against someone else, we can offer the compassionate counsel you need.
The CPS investigation process includes:
- Interviews: An investigation starts with a CPS official interviewing the child, their parents, the alleged offender, and other family members.
- Examinations: CPS may call in experts to conduct or request medical or psychological examinations.
- An explanation of the allegations: The offender will receive an explanation of the allegations against them after interviews have been conducted.
- An offer for a service plan or a notice of removal of the child: Most of the time, CPS tries to resolve the matter by offering the family one of its services, such as counseling, therapy, and parent support services. If CPS has reason to believe that the child is unsafe in their current home, they will assume custody of the child.