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CHILD CUSTODY IN TEXAS

When children are involved, the primary goal of the Texas courts is to consider the children's best interests above all else. In evaluating the children's best interests, Texas courts determine three major issues:

  1. Conservatorship
  2. Child Support
  3. Visitation

Conservatorship: This is the legal term defining the rights and duties awarded to each parent.

You've probably heard the term "joint custody." In Texas there's no such thing. Instead, we have two different types of conservatorship:

  • Sole-Managing Conservatorship - one parent is named the sole-managing conservator and the other parent is named the possessory conservator. The court will define the possessory conservator's rights and duties, including the times and conditions for possession of or access to the child. Unless limited by court order, the parent appointed sole managing conservator has the following rights:
    • to determine the child's primary residence;
    • to consent to medical and psychiatric treatments
    • to receive payments for the support of the child and to hold or distribute these funds for the child's benefit
    • to represent the child in legal action and to make other legal decisions concerning the child
    • to consent to marriage
    • to approve enlistment in the armed forces of the United States;
    • to make decisions concerning the child's education
    • to the child's services and earnings
  • Joint-Managing Conservatorship - one parent is named the joint-managing conservator with primary possession and the other parent is named the joint-managing conservator without primary possession.
    • The main goal is to ensure that children will have frequent and continuing contact with parents who have shown the ability to act in the best interest of the child; to provide a safe, stable, and non violent environment for the child; and to encourage parents to share in the rights and responsibilities of raising their children after the divorce.

The primary difference between the two is that with joint-managing conservatorship, the court tries to establish a sharing of decision-making for the children. Secondly, in cases involving joint-managing conservatorship, the court will often place geographic restrictions on where the children can live. The court will often require that the children not be moved outside of a given area.

Child Support: Texas law outlines basic guidelines for child support in Texas. These guidelines require the non-primary possessory parent to pay a percentage of their income to support the child. When the monthly net income is equal to or less than $7,500, the court applies the following schedule:

  • 1 child - 20% of net income
  • 2 children - 25% of net income
  • 3 children - 30% of net income
  • 4 children - 35% of net income
  • 5 children - 40% of net income
  • 6 or more children - No less than 40%

Additional child support is not typically awarded for expenses such as day care, education, or extracurricular activities. However, child support above these guidelines may be awarded if a child has special needs or in other exceptional circumstances. Additionally, the paying parent is often required to maintain health insurance for the children and generally must pay half of any medical expenses not covered by that health insurance policy.

Visitation: Here again our state has a set of guidelines, referred to as "standard possession order," that aim to make visitation fair, ensure access for both parties, and protect the best interests of the children.

When children are 3 years old or over, this order provides visitation on the 1st, 3rd, and 5th weekends of the month, as well as during alternating spring breaks, 30 days during the summer, every other Thanksgiving, split Christmases, school vacations, and other holidays throughout the year. Parties that live more than 100 miles apart have a slightly different visitation schedule. These guidelines have become the standard, and they work for thousands of families across the state.

You can review an entire standard possession order and evaluate all your available options under these guidelines by visiting Texas Family Law Info.

Contact us to speak with a San Antonio family law attorney about child custody in San Antonio.

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Higdon, Hardy & Zuflacht, L.L.P.

12000 Huebner Road Ste. 200 San Antonio, Texas 78230

  • Tel. (210) 349-9933
  • Fax. (210) 349-9988

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