When divorces happen in families with children, it’s natural to have questions. Who will end up taking care of the children? How often can you see them? Do the children have any say in the matter? How will the parent child relationship be affected? Here’s an overview of how child custody in Texas works.

How is child custody different in Texas than in other states?

In Texas law, the official name for custody—the person who makes decisions for children—is a conservatorship. It’s the rights and duties of a parent: the power to make medical decisions and psychiatric decisions, decisions about a child’s education , etc. It can be arranged a few different ways, from allowing both parents to make decisions together (joint managing conservatorship) or a single parent (sole managing conservatorship). Often, parents are named joint managing conservators, but

In Texas, courts also separate out a different category: possession and access. That refers to figuring out when parents have physical custody of children, and when they can visit them.  

So who pays child support?

Who will pay child support us ultimately up to the Texas court—and what the court decides is in the best interest of the child. The courts will examine evidence on everything from emotional and physical needs, cooperation between parents, home stability, who was the primary caregiver, how to keep siblings together, the child’s preference and the relative competence of each parent. Generally speaking, the parent who has majority possession and access to the child gets the child support. 

What is a parenting plan and do I need one?

A parenting plan sets out the rights and duties of a parent regarding the child. The primary caregiver, or conservator, will need one. These rights and duties include things like the right to make decisions about a child’s home, medical situations and schooling, and the duty to provide insurance and child support. Every case will set these out clearly.

When can my child decide which parent to live with according to Texas custody laws?

In Texas, children can’t unilaterally decide to live with one parent over the other parent. Once a child reaches the age of 12, however, the court can take a child’s wishes into account when deciding where they’ll live. 

Can a Texas child custody order be modified?

Sometimes legal custody orders can be modified, but it has to be in order to meet the best interest of the child. It can only happen under a few circumstances, including instances of family violence or physical or emotional danger to the child.

In addition, if the child is 12 years old or older and tells the court he wants to change his primary caretaker; if the parents agree to a change; if the primary caretaker gives up possession of the child for at least six months; or if there’s been a significant change in the financial or medical circumstances in a child or parent.

Do grandparents have custody or visitation rights?

Usually no. The only exceptions are where they meet specific requirements, usually around parents abusing or neglecting the child, or where a parent has been incarcerated, found incompetent, or died.   

In Texas, can a parent refuse to allow visitation if child support is not paid?

No, they can’t. A court can take the amount of visitation into account when setting child support, but neither they nor a parent can refuse visitation purely on non-payment of child support.

This blog post does not constitute legal advice. If you are facing child custody issues or have questions about a custody suit or your legal rights regarding child custody and visitation, contact a family law attorney at Sandoval Family Law today. We specialize in family law cases and can review your custody case, interpret the Texas family code, and help represent you in court.