Child Custody laws dictate who can make serious decisions about their children’s lives – decisions about their health, schooling, and home. An Austin divorce lawyer can assist you in establishing, modifying, and enforcing custody and visitation in Texas. Notably, it is possible to have a child custody case separate from divorce proceedings.
Texas Courts refer to child custody as “conservatorship.” Conservatorship is the word used to describe the legal responsibilities and rights of a parent. Unless both parents agree, it falls to a family judge to determine the terms of a conservatorship. This judge will make their ruling in the best interest of the child, not the parents. Texas has two types of conservatorships, as follows:
- Sole Managing Conservatorship (SMC)
- Joint Managing Conservatorship (JMC)
First and foremost, it is critical one understands the rights ascribed to a conservatorship. They are as follows:
- Consent to dental, surgical, and medical treatments during an emergency involving immediate danger to the health and safety of the child.
- Access information from the other parent concerning the education, welfare, and health of the child.
- Ability to speak with school officials concerning the child’s educational status, including school activities and welfare.
- Ability to speak to a dentist, psychologist, or physician about the child
Sole Managing Conservatorship (SMC)
When a judge decides that only one parent has the legal right to make legal decisions concerning the child, it is labeled an SMC. Essentially, an SMC grants one parent specific rights, including:
- executive decisions regarding the child’s education
- determining the child’s primary residence
- receiving child support
- consenting to dental and medical treatments
- Consenting to psychological and psychiatric treatment
- The right to attend school functions
- Designated the sole emergency contact on the child’s records
The Court could determine sole managing conservatorship is in the best interest of the child for numerous reasons. Sadly, often one parent simply isn’t seeking joint custody (conservatorship). Other determining factors include:
- a history of volatile disputes between the parents regarding medical, educational, and religious values
- a parent has a history of family neglect or violence
- a parent has been absent from the child’s life
- a parent has a history of alcohol abuse, drug use, or other criminal activity
Joint Managing Conservatorship (JMC)
In theory, all Texas courts begin with the presumption that both parents should be joint managing conservators (JMC). Essentially, a JMC permits both parents to share the parental duties and rights of the child. However, the split isn’t assumed 50/50. A judge may still grant the exclusive right to make specific decisions entirely to one parent. Again, they will make this judgment in the best interest of the child.
The judge will outline the specific responsibilities of each parent, granted both separately and jointly, so there is no confusion. Remember, just because a judge has granted a JMC does not mean both parents are going to have equal possession and access to the child (custody and visitation).
Grandparent Visitation & Custody Rights
In Texas, grandparents generally are not granted visitation or custody rights; unless they can meet the following statutory requirements:
- Overcoming the Texas Court presumption that a fit parent acts in the best interest of their child in denying possession to the grandparent(s) or it would significantly hinder the child’s emotional or physical well-being.
- The grandparent’s child (parent of the child in question) must be either 1.) is declared incompetent by the Court; 2.) is dead; or 3.) does not have court-ordered or actual possession to the child.
- At least one parent has their parental rights terminated at the time relief is requested.
Upon filing for a conservatorship (child custody), a parent may request the Court enter a temporary order governing the matter. Temporary orders grant parties, either court-ordered or mutually agreed upon, rules governing various domestic aspects, including child conservatorship. Remember, temporary orders are just that: temporary. In extreme circumstances, an ex parte order may be issued. Ex parte is an order issued without either party present, warranted only in a dire emergency concerning one of the parties.
Building Your Child Custody Case
To increase your odds of being granted sole or joint custody, there are a few steps you can take to prove to the Court that you are integral in your child’s life. Keep a journal and calendar of everything you do for your child, including:
- exercising your current visitation rights
- providing transportation to school and extra-curricular activities
- providing care for your child daily
- proving you are competent and stable to have custody of your child for extended periods
The nature of Texas’s conservatorship laws become complicated quickly. We have an Austin divorce lawyer who will expertly present an argument that conservatorship be ruled in you and your child’s favor. Just like the Court, the well-being of the future generation of Texans is our foremost concern. Give us a call, we’re here to help you give your child the best life possible.
To find out how we can help you, contact an Divorce Lawyer Austin at 512-400-7070 or send us a message. We will schedule an initial client consultation to review your case details and lay out a game plan for your divorce in Texas. AZ Law Firm will pursue the legal action necessary to secure the fairest possible divorce for you and your loved ones.
- evaluating and explaining to you the pros and cons of your individual case
- discussing with you any available options and our proposed strategies as it relates to your case
- providing guidance and recommendations regarding any proposed settlement offer
- quickly and effectively communicating with you during each step of the process so that you are not left in the dark
- taking your case solely on a contingent fee basis
- and aggressively protecting and defending your rights
We understand times are tough and that there probably hasn’t been a tougher time in your life. Although we could get away with charging exuberant amounts, we prefer not to as we are a law firm by the people, for the people. We do not want you to worry about whether you can afford to hire an attorney to protect and defend your rights. Call us and be surprised at the quality you receive compared to what other law firms will quote you!
Accordingly, the attorneys at AZ Law Firm will always provide you with a free initial consultation. During this initial consultation, one of our divorce lawyer Austin team will evaluate your case, inform you of any legal options that may be available, and allow you to ask any questions that you may have. AZ Law Firm offers affordable rates for all our clients and will work with you on payment plans. Our firm accepts checks, debit cards, and most major credit cards to cover the costs of your legal representation.