Top Five Conservatorship Factors in Texas
Under Texas law, child custody decisions must be in the best interests of the children. Frequently, parents agree on this broad principle. However, the devil is in the details, as they say. Disagreement is common on specific issues, such as the appointment of a primary Joint Managing Conservator (JMC) and parenting time division.
To bridge the gap, Texas law sets forth several factors which collectively determine best interests. Galveston child custody attorneys must be mindful of these factors both in court hearings and settlement negotiations. Arguments which stray too far from the factors often have little traction, and judges sometimes reject agreements which do not uphold these factors.
Ability to Co-Parent
In bygone days, this factor was nonexistent, or at least minimal. Parents were expected to set their differences aside for the benefit of the children. But they were not expected to work together in any way.
The environment is different now. Each parent is expected to encourage the children to have a good relationship with the other parent. Grudging compliance with the SPO (Standard Possession Order) is no longer enough. Parents who do not go above and beyond usually make poor primary JMCs. In some cases, they may not even receive full visitation privileges.
Evidence on this point includes positive posts about the other parent on social media and a demonstrated willingness to compromise on most matters.
Once again, the bare minimum is not enough. Yet many parents only communicate when plans change. So, this factor is one of the best opportunities for a parent to present a good primary JMC case.
Parents who communicate effectively rarely argue with each other, even if the children are not listening. Effective communication also includes things like sharing copies of report cards and proactively informing the other parent about parent-teacher conferences, school recitals, results of doctor’s appointments, and other such matters.
Prior Track Record
Roughly a third of married households feature a stay-at-home parent, which is almost always the mom. These caregiver parents have a leg up in custody disputes with breadwinner parents.
However, the caregiver and breadwinner roles almost always overlap. Even stay-at-home caregivers often work part-time jobs or do freelance work. And, breadwinner parents usually change diapers, cook dinner, and cheer on their children at soccer games, at least to some extent.
On a related note, the parents’ preference is usually a factor in child custody disputes. Many parents, either directly or indirectly, express their willingness to be primary JMCs or possessory JMCs.
This factor is often absent in child custody disputes, even if the children are teenagers. Many children do not want to choose sides.
Legally, a Galveston County judge must consider a child’s preference if the child is at least 12. Sometimes the judge meets with the child privately, and sometimes not. Even if the child chooses, the judge still has the final say. Children, and adults as well, notoriously make decisions which are not in their best interests.
History of Domestic Violence
Most of these factors weigh equally. But this last one is different. If there is a current history of abuse, be it physical, emotional, verbal, or otherwise, primary JMC is probably not a possibility. These allegations must be independently verified. In most cases, unsubstantiated allegations do not hold up in court.
In fact, many abusive parents must deal with restricted visitation, at least for a while. After they complete counselling or overcome a substance abuse problem, full visitation is usually an option. That’s the first step towards becoming a primary JMC, if that’s the goal.
Reach Out to a Dedicated Lawyer
Child custody decisions usually involve a number of factors. For a confidential consultation with an experienced family law attorney in Houston, contact Lindamood & Robinson, P.C., Attorneys at Law. Convenient payment plans are available.