TexasChild Custody Law
Texas Child Custody Guide :: Table of Contents
Child custody is defined as the guardianship over a child, which covers both physical custody and legal custody. In a child custody dispute the court may award joint custody to both parents or sole custody to a single parent.
Child custody cases in Texas can be either contested and resolved by court order, or noncontested and defined in a child custody agreement between the parents. A custody agreement or order will legally determine, at minimum, the following things:
- Where the child lives (physical custody)
- Who is involved in making parenting decisions (legal custody)
- How the visitation schedule with non-custodial parents or relatives is arranged
This page describes how a contested child custody case is handled in the Texas court system, and what factors are used to determine which parent gets custody.
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After a breakup or divorce in Texas, couples with children must come to a child custody agreement that describes which parent the children will live with, how visitation will be scheduled, and how the non-custodial parent will pay child support.
Some of the factors considered by Texas in child custody cases include the child's wishes and any history of domestic violence. Texas considers joint custody orders to be in the best interests of the child where possible.
What are the Abilities of the Guardian Ad Litem?A guardian ad litem appointed for a child under this chapter is not a party to the suit but may:
- conduct an investigation to the extent that the guardian ad litem considers necessary to determine the best interests of the child
- obtain and review copies of the child's relevant medical, psychological, and school records as provided by Section 107.006.
What are the Duties of the Guardian Ad Litem?A guardian ad litem appointed for the child under this chapter shall:
Within a reasonable time after the appointment, interview:
- the child in a developmentally appropriate manner, if the child is four years of age or older
- each person who has significant knowledge of the child's history and condition, including any foster parent of the child
- the parties to the suit
- seek to elicit in a developmentally appropriate manner the child's expressed objectives
- consider the child's expressed objectives without being bound by those objectives
- encourage settlement and the use of alternative forms of dispute resolution
- perform any specific task directed by the court.
In addition to the duties required by Subsection (b), a guardian ad litem appointed for a child in a proceeding under Chapter 262 or 263 shall:
- review the medical care provided to the child
- in a developmentally appropriate manner, seek to elicit the child's opinion on the medical care provided.
What is the Guardian Ad Litem Entitled to?A guardian ad litem appointed for the child under this chapter is entitled to:
- receive a copy of each pleading or other paper filed with the court in the case in which the guardian ad litem is appointed
- receive notice of each hearing in the case
- participate in case staffings by the Department of Family and Protective Services concerning the child
- attend all legal proceedings in the case but may not call or question a witness or otherwise provide legal services unless the guardian ad litem is a licensed attorney who has been appointed in the dual role
- review and sign, or decline to sign, an agreed order affecting the child
- explain the basis for the guardian ad litem's opposition to the agreed order if the guardian ad litem does not agree to the terms of a proposed order.
Will the Guardian Ad Litem Testify?The court may compel the guardian ad litem to attend a trial or hearing and to testify as necessary for the proper disposition of the suit.
Unless the guardian ad litem is an attorney who has been appointed in the dual role and subject to the Texas Rules of Evidence, the court shall ensure in a hearing or in a trial on the merits that a guardian ad litem has an opportunity to testify regarding, and is permitted to submit a report regarding, the guardian ad litem's recommendations relating to:
- the best interests of the child
- the bases for the guardian ad litem's recommendations.
In a nonjury trial, a party may call the guardian ad litem as a witness for the purpose of cross-examination regarding the guardian's report without the guardian ad litem being listed as a witness by a party.
If the parents are on amicable terms they may agree to custody terms in a parenting agreement between themselves, or via a mediator. If child custody is disputed, however, they will have to receive a child custody order from a Texas judge, who will attempt to make a custody decision that is in the "best interests of the child".
In the state of Texas, a number of factors are taken into account by the courts when determining who gets child custody. This section describes Texas' custody factors, considerations, and presumptions when evaluating a custody order.
Is there a set list of statutory factors for calculating child custody in the state of Texas?
Texas does not have a defined list of factors for the court to consider when determing a custody order. This means that judges have significant flexibility on a case-by-case basis when determining a custody arrangement between two parents.
Do judges in the state of Texas favor joint custody?
Judges in Texas are authorized to order either joint or single-parent custody of a child subject to a custody dispute.
Courts in Texas are presumed to generally favor custody orders granting joint custody between both the parents where possible. However, the judge will evaluate each case individually when determing whether joint custody is in the best interests of the child.
Do Texas courts encourage parents to cooperate together to raise the child?
It is not particularly encouraged that the parents cooperative together to raise the child.
Are the child's wishes considered when determining custody in the state of Texas?
In Texas, the court does consider the child's reasonable wishes when determining which parent wins custody. The judge may take the child's age, maturity, and judgement into consideration when considering the child's custody preference.
Do Texas courts consider domestic violence when determining custody?
Texas has laws that explicitly permit the consideration of domestic violence in conjunction with child custody. This may mean that domestic violence is a statutory factor in custody determinations, that the court has a presumption against custody for abusers, or that special procedural considerations are imposed in cases involving domestic violence.
Do the courts in the state of Texas have the right to hire an attorney or Guardian Ad Litem to represent the child?
Texas has statutory authority for appointment of a guardian ad litem or attorney specifically to represent the child in a custody case. This person advocates for the best interest of the child, and is tasked with investigating the family situation and advising the court what custody situation would be in the best interests of the child.