Sabelhaus Lynch, PLLC

How does a court determine child custody?

If you are a parent just starting the divorce process, one of your first thoughts may be about who will end up with custody of your child. If you and your spouse cannot agree on a plan, a court will determine child custody, legally called conservatorship, based on the best interests of your child.

There are two types of child custody in Texas. Joint managing conservatorship involves both parents sharing child care responsibilities. Sole managing conservatorship involves just one parent managing child care responsibilities.

How are best interests determined?

Courts can have wide discretion when determining the best interests of a child, and they may consider any information that is relevant to the child’s well-being. However, some factors a court may consider, include:

  • What arrangement might benefit the child’s physical and emotional well-being?
  • Will each parent support the child’s ongoing relationship with the other parent?
  • Would either parent’s physical or psychological health impact the child’s well-being?
  • How is each parent involved with the child’s activities?
  • What are the child’s wishes?

Courts favor a relationship with both parents

Studies have shown that children often fare better after divorce if they are able to continue having a healthy relationship with both parents. For this reason, courts will often consider it in the children’s best interests for joint managing conservatorship to be awarded. Although this type of child custody requires parents to share child rearing responsibilities, it does not necessarily require responsibilities to be split evenly.

When the best interests of the child warrant it, a court may award sole managing conservatorship. However, when this type of custody is awarded, the parent who does not receive the conservatorship award will often still get some amount of possession and access to the child. Possession and access, which is sometimes called visitation, is awarded because it allows the child to maintain a relationship with the non-custodial parent.

Parents often have the most control over child custody details when they work together to create a plan. However, it can be helpful to understand how a court might determine custody in case negotiations are not successful.

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