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How do Texas courts determine who gets custody over a child?

In Texas, a group of concerned fathers and mothers are continuing to push for equal parenting laws in the state.  The Texas Fathers’ Rights Movement had several members present in Austin recently to find out more information about the state’s child custody laws.  According to organizers of the movement, it can be difficult for Texas parents to obtain equal visitation time with their children in the event of a divorce or separation.  The group is advocating for nothing more than 50/50 parenting.  Despite widespread support, a bill that would have granted equal parenting time recently failed to make it through the legislative process.

House Bill 453

HB 453 was filed during the 2017 legislative session.  It proposed a law that would allow Texas courts to grant equal parenting rights unless it ran contrary to the best interests of the child.  Even though the bill had the support of several vocal state representatives and the Father’s Rights Movement, it ultimately did not pass.  

Determining Custody in Texas

Parents that are separating will need to file a child custody case in Texas.  If the parents can reach their own agreement as to custody outside of court, a Texas judge will typically approve it. When, however, an agreement cannot be reached, the court will need to make the all important decision as to who will receive custody of the child.

Texas courts have the option of awarding one parent sole custody of a child or both parents joint custody.  Texas courts refer to parents with custody as conservators.  The court will evaluate numerous factors to assess whether one or both parents should serve as the conservator.  Factors to consider include the best interests of the child; the desires of the child, if over the age of 12; and any history of domestic abuse.  

The Texas Fathers’ Rights Movement believes that Texas courts currently tend to favor the mother over the father in awarding custody.  Several other states have adopted laws that set out a preference for joint custody, but some argue such laws could interfere with the ability of judges to do what they see as best for a child.  Parents involved in a child custody battle should contact a child custody attorney as soon as possible.