Texas law has its own set of definitions concerning child custody and visitation. At our Springer & Lyle Denton, Texas law firm, we help our clients understand these legal terms as we work with them to develop a parenting plan that will address all the factors courts consider when determining child custody.
Texas Child Custody Definitions
Most states use the terms “custody” and “visitation” when determining which parent, the children will live with and which parent will have visitation rights. In Texas, custody is referred to as “conservator-ship.” A parent who has the exclusive right to designate the primary residence of the children is the parent the children will live with. We call that the primary conservator or the custodial parent. A parent who has a possession order has visitation with the children and we call that parent the non-custodial parent.
“Access” refers to the contact a parent has between the possession times. This means when the parent can talk on the phone, face time, text, email, and other ways to keep in contact when the parent and child are not involved in being physically together.
The Best Interest of the Children
According to a Texas statute, “The best interest of the child shall always be the primary consideration of the court in determining the issues of conservatorship and possession of and access to the child.” In order to determine what is in the children’s best interest, the court considers all relevant factors. Some factors are:
- The relationship the children currently have with each parent and which parent was the primary caregiver.
- The likelihood that the person appointed primary conservator will foster a relationship with the other parent.
- Working hours of each parent and how that will affect their ability to have conservatorship of the children.
- Which schools the children attend and whether a conservatorship would disrupt the school and extracurricular activities of the children.
- Whether there have been allegations of domestic violence, child abuse, child neglect, or drug use, and the outcome of any allegations that were made.
- The wishes of children who are over the age of 12.
According to the law, the court will find it is in the best interest of the children to be in “a safe, stable, and nonviolent environment.” The court will also encourage the parents to “share in the rights and duties of raising their child.”