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What factors do courts consider when determining child custody?

Even when divorcing spouses have a relatively cordial relationship, it is quite common to have significant contention when it comes to children. Although it’s never easy to prepare yourself for divorce proceedings, it can help to know what to expect when it comes to the child custody stage of the divorce process.

Establishing conservatorship

In Texas, child custody is known as conservatorship, and parents who have custody of their minor children are called the child’s conservators. A court may sometimes order a sole managing conservatorship, in which one parent has primary charge of the child, if it is in the best interest of the child to do so. However, whenever possible, courts prefer to name both parents as joint managing conservators.

This is because the stated priority of Texas’s divorce courts is to ensure that children have frequent and continuing contact with both of their parents, as long as there is no abuse or other safety concerns, and as long as both parents are capable of acting in their child’s best interest. The best interest of the child will always be the court’s primary concern, above the convenience or wishes of the parents or of any other party.

What the court looks for

Nowadays, there is no longer a presumption of conservatorship for the mother. Both parents have an equal chance of demonstrating to the court that they are appropriate candidates for conservatorship.

As stated, the first thing that a court will evaluate is whether there is a history of domestic violence, neglect, or abuse on the part of either parent. Such abuse may likely disqualify a parent for joint conservatorship, and, in extreme circumstances, may even limit their access to their children through a court-mandated visitation schedule.

Courts look for a parent’s ability to provide a safe and stable environment for their child to grow up in. They also look for willingness to foster the child’s relationship with their other parent.

There are few things as difficult as going through a divorce with minor children. With proper preparation, and a willingness to negotiate, you will hopefully be able to get through it with a favorable outcome, knowing that the court will place the best interest of your child first and foremost.