While Texas law clearly defines the rights and obligations of each parent in a child custody case, each case must be evaluated and decided based on the individual facts. The Dallas child custody lawyers at the McClure Law Group have the knowledge and experience needed to assist you in preserving your custody rights, ensuring that you reach an arrangement that meets the needs of your child and you, and enforcing any related court orders. Joint custody is the favored framework in most cases, so it is worth taking the time to understand how it works.
When a couple with a child comes to the decision to divorce, it becomes essential to decide how custody should be divided. Parents are encouraged to come to an agreement regarding the custody of their child. Texas courts prefer custody arrangements that allow parents to enjoy equal custody but will generally defer to a custody agreement made by the parents, as long as the agreement is in the best interest of the child. If the parents cannot come to an agreement between themselves, court intervention becomes necessary. The sole standard considered by the courts when deciding a custody arrangement is what is in the best interest of the child involved.Factors Considered in Awarding Custody
In Texas family law courts, the concept popularly known as custody is called a conservatorship. A conservatorship encompasses the rights and obligations of parents. A court may appoint a sole managing conservatorship or a joint managing conservatorship. In determining which type of conservatorship is in the child's best interest, many factors come into play. The Equal Rights Amendment, which was passed in Texas in 1973, prohibits courts from considering the sex of a parent in deciding child custody. All other factors that may affect the child's life are relevant, however, and should be taken into consideration. These factors include each parent's health, the child's health, and which parent was the primary caretaker of the child prior to the divorce. Other than cases involving neglect or abuse, courts generally will not sever either parent's custody rights. They presume that a joint managing conservatorship (or joint custody) is in the best interest of the child.Joint Legal Custody
If the court finds a joint managing conservatorship to be in the child's best interest, the parents will share parental rights and obligations. A joint managing conservatorship provides what is generally known as joint legal custody, in which both parents have a say in the child's upbringing. Either parent can make decisions regarding the child's medical treatment and access the child's medical records. Additionally, both parents can make decisions regarding the child's education and religion.Joint Physical Custody
Even when a joint managing conservatorship is established, however, the parents may not have joint physical custody of the child. One parent is generally appointed the primary joint managing conservator by the court. The primary joint managing conservator is the parent responsible for deciding the child's primary residence and defining the geographic area where the child will live. The primary joint managing conservator may be known as the custodial parent, and often the child will reside primarily with the custodial parent. The possessory conservator, or non-custodial parent, retains the right to physical custody of the child, however. Parents are permitted to have joint physical custody of the child, regardless of where the child's primary residence is located, and the possessory conservator may be able to have physical custody of the child on an equal basis with the joint managing conservator. Other than the decision regarding where the child's primary residence will be, the primary and possessory joint managing conservators still share decision-making powers regarding the child's upbringing.Joint Custody and Child Support
Under Texas law, the appointment of parents as joint managing conservators does not limit the court's authority to impose a child support obligation on one of the conservators. Instead, the court will assess what is in the best interest of the child, rather than what either parent deems to be fair. More often than not, the possessory conservator will provide some financial support to the primary joint managing conservator, but this is not always the case.Arrange a Consultation with a Child Custody Attorney in the Dallas Area
Divorce actions involving the custody of children can be challenging. If you are seeking joint custody, you should retain counsel who can help ensure that you retain your custody rights. The McClure Law Group is knowledgeable in negotiating the emotional difficulties presented by custody cases and will work aggressively to ensure that your rights are protected. To schedule a consultation, contact us at 214.692.8200 or through our online form. In addition to assisting parents, our lawyers represent grandparents who are seeking to protect or establish their rights regarding grandchildren.