Texas Child Custody Laws
In our great state of Texas, as in many other states, courts must take into account the child's wishes (after the child is a certain age) when making custody arrangements, especially if the parents haven't filed a parenting plan (a custody and/or visitation schedule). Among the items courts consider are:
- Suit Affecting Parent-Child Relationship (SAPCR): (pronounded sap-ser") This is necessary when the parents of a child are not married but need an order stating who has what rights to the child and when they have a right to possession. A SAPCR is like a divorce because it deals with child support, possession, and other rights and duties of the parents to the child, but it does not include any provision for the division of assets.
- Informal Marriage more often called a "common law marriage" is usually used by one party to establish that they are entitled to property (such as home or retirement) even though they were not formally married. Texas requires 3 elements to establish an informal marriage, which can be tricky to prove in the best of circumstances:
- "Holding out" to the community as spouses
- Joint "custody." "Texas does not have "custody" like many states, but rather breaks it up into three areas: conservatorship, possession, and access. Conservatorship determines who will have what rights to make certain decisions, such as where the child's primary residence will be. The "Possession" order will determine who can have the child[ren] and when. Regardless, Texas Courts are always looking for "the best interest of the child" and that will be the deciding factor in any contested matter with children. It needs to be established whether this benefits the child physically, psychologically, and emotionally.
- Child Support: Texas ONLY looks at the income of the parent who is ordered to pay child support. This is usually the parent who is not awarded the right to determine the child[ren]'s primary residence (which is statistically still the mother). Texas guideline support as of 2019 is 20% of your net income for 1 child, 25% of your net income for 2 children, 30% of your net income for 3 children. However, don't be fooled by your paystub as to what "net" may mean. Please contact an attorney or Office of the Attorney General for this calculation.
- Standard Possession Order: This is the default for a court to order if you and the other parent cannot come to an agreement. This means that one of you will have the child[ren] the majority of the time and the other will have the possession of the child[ren] only on the 1st, 3rd, and 5th Fridays of each month, starting at 6 p.m. and ending at 6 p.m. the following Sunday. The non-majority time parent would also have every Thursday from 6 p.m to 8 p.m. Holidays alternate and there is an extended summer possession to help make up for the lost time during the school term. There are many details and exceptions, and a couple variations to this schedule so please read the code carefully or speak to an attorney before signing such an order.
- Post-divorce relationships. Courts consider whether parents will promote and encourage a relationship between the other parent and the child.
- Communication. Whether or not the parents communicate effectively for the best interest of the child is an important consideration and one on which I'll be happy to work with you.
- Contribution to the child's upbringing. Before the custody case is filed, courts look at how each parent has impacted the raising of your child. This is often referred to as the "primary care giver." Traditionally, this has been the mother. And while there is no law stating that a mother has a superior right to the child[ren] most fathers will have an up-hill battle being named the "primary conservator" which refers to the parent who has the right to determine the child[ren]'s primary residence, which almost always determines school attendance.
- Physical location of each parent's home. In Bexar County and most of the surrounding counties (Kendall County, Comal County, Guadalupe County, Atascosa County, Medina County) the Court will order a "geographic restriction" for the "primary parent" that includes the county that the court is in and the adjacent counties. There are times when this is more restrictive or completely waived.
Adoption & Parental Rights Termination Laws in Texas
Currently, any adult can adopt a child in Texas, as long as the child provides consent if he or she is over the age of 12. Recently, lawmakers have attempted to pass legislation that would allow private adoption agencies to disallow LGBT couples to adopt children, but these motions have not passed judicial review.
In the case of parental rights termination in Texas, courts examine the fitness of parents to care for their child. If it's proven the child endures abuse, neglect, I can initiate the case to terminate parental rights, sign and file the paperwork, and serve the other parent before you attend a necessary hearing to finalize the motion.