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How do judges decide on sole or joint custody in a child custody case?

by | Oct 16, 2020 | Child Custody, Judges |

Some clients come to the Law Office of Lisa A. Vance to settle child custody cases, wanting to know if sole custody is possible. The short answer to that is that it is possible, particularly if a case aligns with an element within Section 153 of the Texas Family Code, which provides the backbone for all Texas cases involving children in divorce. But it isn’t necessarily the best thing for your child — as the court sees it.

One important thing to understand about Texas family law is how it defines parenting. One part of the equation is what’s called conservatorship, dealing with who makes decisions for the child. If one parent is awarded that right, it’s called a sole managing conservator, and if more than one parent is, it’s what’s called a joint managing conservator. While this is usually the domain of the child’s two parents, other people or even the Department of Family and Protective Services can be named a conservator.

The other part deals with possession and access, which is often what people think of when they talk about custody. That gets into parenting schedules, when a child lives with one parent vs. the other, and how much time that child stays with each parent. For some parents in child custody cases, spending time with their kids is the primary concern, but both aspects of parental rights are important.

Courts will look for what’s in the best interest of the child — in fact, that’s a phrase that’s baked into the Texas Family Code. And in many cases, the court’s going to call for some form of joint custody in order to help the children maintain relationships with both parents.

However, if there’s a history of domestic violence or sexual abuse, that can be enough for the court to rule in one parent’s favor for sole custody. In fact, the Texas Family Code says, “The court may not appoint joint managing conservators if credible evidence is presented of a history or pattern of past or present child neglect, or physical or sexual abuse by one parent directed against the other parent, a spouse, or a child.”

There are provisions within that part of the code that still allow for a parent to have some level of access to the child, but those come with specific requirements (including a battering intervention and prevention program) that the parent needs to meet.

There is also, however, a provision in the code against false reports of child abuse, and how that can be admissible in a custody case should there be evidence of a false report of child abuse.

For parents facing custody cases, it’s good to know what’s realistic but also what’s possible. A consultation with the Law Office of Lisa A. Vance will allow you to share the specifics of your case and determine the best course of action … specifically if you’re dealing with conditions serious enough to warrant trying to get sole custody.