Understanding Texas Child Custody Laws

by J. Branden Snyder

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Dallas child custody lawyerIf you are facing a battle for custody of your child or children, it can be a very stressful, frustrating, and emotional time for you. Although there may not be any guarantees in your case, it is important to understand Texas child custody laws and how they may affect your case.

First, let’s break down the terminology.

The term “custody” refers to the legal relationship between a parent and child. The “custodial parent” is the parent with whom the child or children in question live. The “non-custodial” parent is the individual who may or may not have been granted visitation with the child, but does not provide the primary residence for the child.

Who gets custody?

Custody is often determined in court and is granted to the parent the court deems most fit for the child or children based on the best interests of the child. This is the guiding principle by which the courts determine which parent shall be granted custody. There are a number of factors (called the “Holley Factors”) that the courts may use to determine the best interests of the child. These include (but are not limited to):

• the desires of the child
• present and future emotional and physical needs/potential dangers of the child
• parental abilities of the individuals seeking custody
• stability of both parents’ homes
• acts or omission of the parent which may indicate an improper existing parent-child relationship
• who has been making educational decisions of the child and meeting with the child’s teachers
• who has been making medical-related decisions
• who generally prepares food and feeds the children
• if one parent has alienated the child from the other parent
• which parent gets up with the child in the morning and puts him/her to bed at night
• any court appointed child custody expert recommendations

What about visitation?

The parent who is not awarded primary custody of the child will generally be given a set visitation schedule by the court. While Texas has a standard visitation schedule for children over three years old, the courts may alter this schedule based on the best interests of the child, or if the two parents agree on an alternative schedule.

Who pays child support?

Typically, the parent who is not awarded primary custody, or who has possession and access of the child the least amount of time is the parent who pays child support. If both parties agree on an equal possession and access schedule, neither parent may be required to pay child support. Visitation with the child cannot be denied on account of unpaid child support.

Once set, custody of a child can be modified if it is deemed to be in the best interest of the child and if certain conditions exist, such as agreement of both parents, a child over 12 years old requesting to live with the other parent, or a significant change in the custodial parent’s financial situation.

We do not handle divorce cases, but, if you are facing a child custody battle or other family law issues, contact The Law Offices of Tim O’Hare for a free consultation with one of our attorneys.  Regardless, we urge you to always do what is right by the child, and not put a child in the middle of a battle between yourself and the child’s other parent.  Show your child the right way to live, by example.

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