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Frequently Asked Questions About Child Custody In Texas

We address some common questions that parents have about care and custody of children. To address you specific situation, arrange a consultation with board-certified family law attorney Travis Thompson. You can call us at 281-369-8665.

I’m going through divorce. What are my options for custody?

Generally speaking, Texas law recognizes three types of child custody arrangements:

1. Joint management conservatorship
2. Sole managing conservatorship
3. Possessory conservatorship

Joint managing conservatorship is the most common. But all three of these custody arrangements contemplate that both parents will have certain specified rights and duties to their children. A joint managing conservatorship arrangement usually includes a wider selection of equal rights and duties between the two parents. A sole managing conservatorship arrangement assigns a greater share of parental rights exclusively to one parent. A possessory conservatorship arrangement includes a more limited scope of parental rights.

You and your divorcing spouse can agree on a parenting time schedule or the court can weigh an outcome based on a number of factors. Wherever your case goes, it’s best to have an experienced divorce and child custody attorney on your side — someone who knows Texas child custody law and how it can be applied to help you.

We are not married. What are my options for custody?

There might not be an immediate need for a child custody order so long as you and the other parent are cooperating in raising the children. But, if you and the other parent split up, or are otherwise unable to cooperate and agree regarding the children, then you may need to petition a court for a child custody and support order.

Generally speaking, the available custody arrangements under Texas law are the same for both divorcing parents and unmarried parents. See the question above for an explanation of joint management conservatorship (shared responsibilities), sole managing conservatorship (primary custody) or possessory conservatorship (visitation rights). An unmarried father may need to first establish paternity through a DNA test.

How is child support decided? Which parent pays child support and which parent receives child support?

Texas Law prescribes specific guidelines and formulas for determining a suitable amount of child support in a divorce or custody case. In most cases, it does not matter whether the custody arrangement is a sole managing conservatorship or a joint managing conservatorship. The court can order the non-custodial parent to pay child support to the sole managing conservator. The court can also order one joint managing conservator to pay child support to the other joint managing conservator. In certain cases involving a pure 50/50 shared custody arrangement, the court may approve an order authorizing a smaller child support amount or an order requiring each parent to support the children during their own periods of possession.

Calculating the specific dollar amount of the child support is typically based on a percentage of the paying party’s net income multiplied by the total number of minor children. In most custody orders, the court will expect one parent to pay child support to the other parent. It is usually payable on a monthly basis and can be deducted from the payor’s paycheck. The court will require additional provisions for the child or children’s medical and dental insurance coverage and payment responsibility for uninsured healthcare expenses. The child support obligation will typically end by the time the child has turned 18 or graduated from high school.

Can I do anything to change a custody order, in case something goes wrong?

Child custody provisions in court orders can, under certain circumstances, be modified in the event of a sudden, substantial change of circumstance — the need to relocate for job-seeking, specialized health care, or business or military transfer, to name just a few examples. In these situations, the child support obligation can be modified, as well. These initiatives can also be contested, and the court’s approval and a new court order will be required either way. A divorce and child custody attorney who knows how to request modifications and advocate in these situations can be of definite advantage to you.

What if the other parent conveniently and repeatedly ignores the custody and visitation orders?

Your lawyer can petition the court for what’s called an enforcement, which compels the noncustodial parent to fulfill the court-ordered obligations and honor the terms of the order..

What if child support isn’t being paid regularly? Can visitation be denied on that basis?

Child support and visitation (also known and possession and access) are not one and the same. Access to a child cannot be denied strictly on the basis of nonpayment of financial support.

I am behind on child support. Can the other parent deny visitation with my child?

The answer is the same as above. Namely, visitation rights are not contingent on child support being up to date. Access to a child cannot be withheld because of nonpayment or late payment. The parent can seek court enforcement of child support but may not deny scheduled visitation.

Sounds like I need a hard-and-fast, etched-in-stone parenting plan. Can an attorney help draw up one of these that passes muster with the court?

Absolutely. Duties and rights of both parties should be explicitly spelled out for decision-making, health and education, child support and health insurance considerations, just to name a few.

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These are the kinds of priorities we can discuss during your initial consultation with Law Thompson, P.C., in Houston. It can be arranged today by calling us at 281-369-8665 or sending us an email message.

We represent clients in Harris County, Montgomery County and surrounding counties.