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CUSTODY

In Texas, "custody" as most people think of it is actually broken down into two separate rights - conservatorship and possession.

Pursuant to Tex. Fam. Code Sec. 153.001, "[t]he public policy of [the] state is to: (1) assure that children will have frequent and continuing contact with parents who have shown the ability to act in the best interest of the child; (2) provide a safe, stable, and nonviolent environment for the child; and (3) encourage parents to share in the rights and duties of raising their child after the parents have separated or dissolved their marriage." In addition, "[t]he 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." Tex. Fam. Code Sec. 153.002.

For conservatorship, a parent may either be appointed the sole managing conservator of the child (similar to what most people would think of as "full custody") or both parents will be appointed joint managing conservators (similar to "joint custody"), with each parent sharing in the rights and duties to the child. Pursuant to Tex. Fam. Code Sec. 153.131, there is generally a presumption that both parents should be appointed joint managing conservators unless there are other circumstances (such as family violence, child abuse or neglect) which show that appointment of both parents as joint managing conservators would not be in the best interest of the child.

For possession of and access to the child, Tex. Fam. Code Sec. 153.251 states, "[i]t is the policy of [the] state to encourage frequent contact between a child and each parent for periods of possession that optimize the development of a close and continuing relationship between each parents and child. It is preferable for all children in a family to be together during periods of possession." The presumption is that the parties will either share possession in equal periods of time or one parent will have primary possession of the child with the other conservator having possession of the child pursuant to the Texas Family Code's Standard Possession Order. The Texas Family Code's Standard Possession Order includes the following:

"(a) If the possessory conservator resides 100 miles or less from the primary residence of the child, the possessory conservator shall have the right to possession of the child as follows:

(1) On weekends throughout the year beginning at 6 p.m. on the first, third, and fifth Friday of each month and ending at 6 p.m. on the following Sunday; and (2) On Thursdays of each week during the regular school term beginning at 6 p.m. and ending at 8 p.m., unless the court finds that visitation under this subdivision is not in the best interest of the child." Tex. Fam. Code Sec. 153.312.

The Standard Possession Order also includes provisions for holidays and summer vacation. If you have questions regarding conservatorship or possession of your child(ren), contact our office today for an initial consultation.

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