When parents in Texas get divorced or are unmarried and living apart, state law seeks a child custody arrangement that is in the children’s best interests. Most of the time, the parents negotiate a custody plan for the family court judge to approve. But sometimes, the parents cannot agree. Then it is up to the judge to decide how to divide parenting time.
As a parent in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, you need to know that there are actually two types of child custody. They are physical child custody (where the children live) and legal child custody, which in Texas is called “managing conservatorship.” Legal custody is the right to make important decisions about the children’s lives, such as what schools they will go to and who their pediatrician will be. In Texas, courts presume that parents will be co-managing conservators unless one parent is absent or there is evidence of domestic violence from one of the parents.
Factors that family court judges consider
When it comes to physical custody, the law makes no presumptions. Judges are not supposed to assume that the parents will split custody 50/50 (or that one parent will get sole custody) unless one or both parents prove that it is a bad idea. Instead, when parents cannot work out a reasonable custody plan on their own, family court judges must consider several factors to determine the children’s best interests. These include:
- The child’s physical and emotional needs
- Each parent’s relationship with the child
- Each parent’s health and financial resources
- The child’s stated preference, if they are old enough
However, most of the time, the parents negotiate a child custody plan with their attorneys’ help.