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How do Texas courts decide child custody?

In Texas, as in most states, there are three processes that can be used for determining the custody of children.

In the first method, the two parties work collaboratively to reach an agreement. In this scenario, the parents (typically with the help of attorneys) find middle ground and amicably develop an agreement.

In the second method, the sides agree to use alternative dispute resolution, in which an arbitrator or mediator helps in the process.

In the third method, the court decides any unresolved custody issues.

In this post, we will give an overview of how Texas courts decide custody.

Public policy in Texas

Texas law regarding child custody says the public policy of the state is threefold:

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.

The best interests of the child

The primary consideration for judges when they decide custody is the best interests of the child.

It's often in the child's best interests to maintain a close and loving relationship with both parents, but the practicalities of such relationships can be challenging, according to FindLaw.

Typically, multiple factors are used to determine best interests. The factors can include:

  • Parents' ability to care for the daily needs (and any special needs) of the child
  • Proximity to other family members, such as grandparents
  • Age and sex of the child
  • Religious and/or cultural considerations
  • The child's need for stability in his or her life
  • Educational considerations
  • Mental and physical health of the parents
  • History and/or evidence of alcohol or drug abuse by the parents
  • History and/or evidence of domestic abuse by the parents
  • History and/or evidence of sexual abuse by the parents
  • Child's preference, if old enough to have and communicate a preference

As a parent, you know what your children need to thrive. It can be frustrating and difficult, however, to express your opinion in a way that will persuade a judge. That is why it is important to work with an attorney who understands the process and who knows what the judges are looking for when making custody decisions.

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