Child custody and visitation in Texas divorce

If you are a Texan contemplating a divorce or if your spouse has decided to go ahead with one, it's likely that if you have children, concern for their well being is foremost in your mind. Right after worry about their best interests may come uncertainty about your parental rights going forward.

Texas family law sets up a system to determine how matters of child residence, custody, visitation, control, decision making, possession and access will be handled. Texas statutes adopt some unique terminology in this regard:

  • Managing conservatorship: traditionally called custody
  • Possessory conservatorship: traditionally called visitation

Managing conservatorship can be held jointly or solely by one parent. In a joint managing conservatorship, one parent is granted the power to decide where the child's primary residence will be. That decision is up to the sole custodian in that arrangement. Typically, the parent with which the child does not primarily live will have a possessory conservatorship, usually called visitation rights.

Marital agreement

You and your spouse may be able to negotiate or mediate a marital settlement agreement in which you lay out the agreed-upon terms of your divorce, including those that relate to future custody of and visitation with your children. Reaching agreement can have its advantages since while you will undoubtedly have to compromise on some things, at least the final product is under your control and can include creative child possession options that work for your situation.

Texas family court

The agreement must be submitted to the Texas family court for review. The judge must review the custody and visitation provisions of the deal to ensure that they are in the best interest of the children.

If you and your soon-to-be ex cannot reach a negotiated agreement that settles custody and visitation, the judge will have to decide these issues for you in court based on the evidence.

Seek smart legal advice

As early as possible, when you know that a potential divorce could make child possession and access real issues for your family, it is smart to consult with an experienced Texas family lawyer who can explain in detail what Texas law says and how state courts have interpreted it in situations similar to yours. Together you can decide whether to negotiate, mediate or go to court and what your goals will be for custody and visitation. If you decide to go to family court, your divorce attorney can plan and carry out a wise strategy for asserting your parental rights in light of the children's best interests.