What Are the Child Custody Laws in Texas?

What you should know before you get to court

Mother and son hugging
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If you live in Texas, have gone through a breakup and there are minor children involved, it's vital that you acquaint yourself with child custody laws. If you and your spouse or former partner have split long ago, you may need to review custody laws if either of you has experienced a major life shift. For example, one of you may be planning to move; the other may have fallen on hard times personally or financially or both. Or perhaps the child may have expressed a desire to live full-time with one of you and not with the other.

Primarily, Texas custody laws favor granting both parents access to the child but that doesn't always happen. 

Filing for Child Custody in Texas

Parents can file a custody case in Texas if the child resides in the state or the child resided in the state for six months before the custody case. They may also file if the child's parents have a connection with Texas besides physically living there, such as a job, or if evidence is available in the state concerning the child's care, education, etc.

A parent in Texas who wishes to commence a child custody case should provide the court with the following information:

  • Child's address
  • Place where child has lived for the past five years
  • Names and addresses of individuals whom the child has lived with for the past five years, along with the names and addresses of those who have claimed physical and/or legal custody of the child for the past five years

Modifying Child Custody in Texas

A Texas court can modify a child custody case if:

  • The court has the power to make an initial child custody determination
  • No other state court has the power to decide the case
  • The court determines that the child's parents do not live in another state

Conservatorship and Child Custody in Texas

Instead of referring to a parent's guardian as a "custodian," a Texas court refers to them as a conservator. A court will give one parent sole custody of a child (sole managing conservator) or both parents joint custody (joint managing conservatorship). The court considers various factors in determining whether one or both parents will serve as a conservator. These include the best interests of the child; a history of domestic violence in either of the parents; or the child's testimony if they are over the age of 12.

A conservator in Texas has the right to inquire and participate in the child's health, education, after school activities, etc. They may attend school activities, be designated as an emergency contact on the child's school forms, or make decisions regarding the child's education, health or legal needs.

Texas child custody laws also encourage parents to work together to provide the most stable home for a child. Parents who have questions about child custody in Texas should speak with an attorney or read the Texas Family Court Act.

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