The perspective in state law on child custody matters has significantly shifted over the past several decades, resulting in changes to the ways courts approach these cases. Still, the priority remains the same. This is to preserve the “best interests” of every child even if those interests run counter to the desires of one parent.

Courts make various assumptions in accordance with state law about what is best for a child, so if you want to challenge those assumptions in any way, you should seek help from a knowledgeable family attorney. Whether you agree with your co-parent about the parenting schedule or there is some dispute, an experienced Houston child custody lawyer could help you pursue an outcome to your case that protects both your best interests and those of your children.

Determining Who Gets “Conservatorship” Rights

State law uses the term “conservatorship” rather than “custody” to refer to parental rights and responsibilities over a child, and likewise use the terms “managing conservatorship” and “possessory conservatorship” to refer to what other states respectively call “legal custody” and “physical custody.” Managing conservatorship grants a parent the right to make decisions for their child about important matters like education, healthcare, and religious upbringing. Possessory conservatorship identifies which parent will be living with the child and provide for their day-to-day needs.

As per Texas Family Code §153.131, family courts in Houston operate under a “rebuttable presumption” which assumes that granting joint managing conservatorship to both parents is in a child’s best interests. When it comes to possessory conservatorship, though, courts generally give parents broad authority to come up with an arrangement for who the child will stay with at specific times and what visitation rights the non-custodial parent will have when they do not have the child living with them.

If a child’s parents cannot agree on an equitable split of custody rights, the court overseeing their case has the authority to make an independent decision regarding both managing and possessory conservatorship of the children. The court may consider various factors when making this kind of child custody decision, all of which one of our caring Houston attorneys could explain.

Factors that Courts Consider When Ruling on Custody Cases

According to TX Fam. Code §153.002, courts deciding on custody matters must always hold the best interests of the child as their primary consideration. However, the statute does not go into detail about any specific factors that a court should focus on when determining what custody arrangement serves a child’s “best interests.” Instead, courts generally follow several factors that should be considered before any decision is made on a custody matter. These factors, which may not all be applicable in every situation, include:

  • The child’s wishes, if they are of a certain age
  • The child’s current and future physical and emotional needs
  • Whether the child is in any emotional or physical danger from one or both parents
  • The capacity of the parent(s) seeking custody to understand and actively meet the child’s needs
  • The availability of programs and services that a parent with custody could use to help meet their child’s needs
  • The future plans of the parent(s) seeking custody
  • The stability of each parent’s home
  • Any history of emotional instability and/or substance addiction in either parent

A Houston lawyer could help a parent determine what factors may play a role in a court’s child custody decision.

Could an Existing Child Custody Order Be Modified?

There are only a few circumstances under which a court may grant a modification of an existing child custody. The most common of these circumstances is a “material and substantial change” in the circumstances of one parent, both parents, or the child that makes the prior arrangement no longer suitable for the child’s needs and best interests. A lawyer in Houston could provide crucial assistance building a compelling child custody case in this regard.

The court may grant a modification request if the custodial parent voluntarily gives up possessory conservatorship to someone else for at least six months, so long as military service is not the reason for their relinquishing of primary care.

Speak with a Houston Child Custody Attorney Today

Child custody can simultaneously be one of the most legally complicated and emotionally contentious procedures covered under family law, especially if you are already caught up in a difficult divorce. Qualified legal help could make all the difference not only in how efficiently a case proceeds, but also in whether the outcome gives any weight to your own wishes and best interests.

A seasoned Houston child custody lawyer could offer guidance and support throughout every stage of these challenging legal proceedings. Call today to learn more.