In a divorce, many dads fear the worst: that Texas courts are biased against them and will never grant them custody. The truth is that Texas law doesn’t state a preference for one parent over the other in a divorce. Instead, it says that parents should usually be named joint managing conservators. That means they share the responsibility for making decisions about the child’s life.
Joint managing conservatorship doesn’t mean that both parents necessarily get equal time with the child. In most joint conservatorship orders, the child will live with one parent. This parent is the “custodial parent.” The other parent is the “noncustodial parent.” Most—but not all—noncustodial parents are fathers. In Texas, about 10% of noncustodial parents are mothers.
Texas courts call the time a parent spends with the child “possession.” In Texas, the law generally says that a Standard Possession Order is in the best interests of a child who is three years old or older (Texas Family Code chapter 153.252). A Standard Possession Order says that the parents may have possession of the child whenever they both agree. If parents don’t agree, the noncustodial parent can have access to the child according to a schedule set by law.
“The Best Interests of the Child”
But what does “the best interests of a child” mean? The courts consider a series of factors, including things like the parenting abilities of the individuals seeking custody, the stability of the home, and the child’s emotional and physical needs.
Many father’s rights advocates remind us that these factors have historically worked against dads. They say that fathers were more commonly away at work during the day, so they had to take a less active role in parenting. They weren’t homemakers. They didn’t have practice managing the child’s dietary needs, arranging doctor’s appointments or setting a regular schedule. So, when courts considered the best interests of the child, mothers often looked like the ones who were better able to parent, create a stable home and meet the child’s needs.
However, Texas courts are becoming more aware of the role that fathers play in the lives of their children. The preference for mothers as care providers isn’t as ingrained as it used to be. Instead, courts see both parents as critical to the health and wellbeing of their children. And lawmakers have cited statistics showing that children who have both parents in their lives are happier.
Get a Lawyer’s Advice for Child Custody Matters
If you are a father who is worried about child custody in a Texas divorce, don’t give up hope. It is possible for fathers to protect their relationships with their children. Of course, it’s always a good idea to take action as soon as possible and to talk with an experienced attorney about your situation. Contact the Law Offices of V. Wayne Ward in Fort Worth today to get the help you deserve.