Jefferson County Child Custody Lawyer
Best Interests of the Child
When issuing a child custody order, a Texas judge’s primary concern is ensuring that the best interest of the child — physical, mental and emotional — are met. The judge may award physical and legal custody to one parent alone (commonly referred to as the “sole conservator”) or both parents (known as “joint conservators”). The conservator has the right to make decisions regarding the child’s school, doctors, legal needs, religious affiliation (if any) and extracurricular activities. If the parents are joint conservators, they are required to make these decisions together.
A Texas judge will likely consider other factors when determining what is in the best interest of a child, including the child’s emotional and physical needs, each party’s ability to raise and support the child, the stability of each parent’s home life and each parent’s future plans regarding the child. The court will consider past or potential harm or abuse (if applicable) to the child perpetrated by the parents, as well as any evidence suggesting an improper relationship between a parent and child. If the child is older than 12, a judge may take into consideration the child’s preference and even accept testimony regarding where the child wants to reside.
A “parenting plan” is a temporary or final court order that establishes the rights and obligations of parents in a suit regarding the parent-child relationship. They include provisions relating to conservatorship, custody of a child and child support. Parenting plans also contain a dispute resolution process to minimize future points of contention. Ideally, a parenting plan will assist in promoting the best interest of your child and help both parties resolve any and all parenting-related issues.
Pursuant to Texas state law, a parent may only request a modification to his or her child custody arrangement if the circumstances of the child and/or parent have drastically changed, the child is at least 12 years old and would like a change, and/or the custodial parent has turned over the child’s care and custody to another individual. Significant changes include remarriage, medical conditions, a criminal conviction and/or change in employment.
Domestic Violence & Child Custody Arrangements
State law prohibits a court from making parents joint conservators if there is evidence demonstrating a pattern of physical or sexual abuse by one parent against the other parent, spouse or a child. Additionally, the state of Texas prohibits a parent from having possession of a child if that parent has a history of family violence during the previous two years, or if he or she has sexually assaulted or abused the child.
Keep in mind that while a parent’s history of domestic violence can limit their chances of becoming the sole conservator of a child, the abusive parent may still be entitled to some form of custodial rights. Speak with an experienced child custody attorney to learn more.