Fathers fight to split time and custody equally


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Fathers fight to split time and custody equally

happy family children play with dad at park

A bill pending before the Texas Legislature right now could change divorce in Texas.

Fathers in the Lone Star State are rallying in support of a new law to be passed that would change the child custody law.  Texas House Bill 453[3], authored by State Rep. James White, R-Woodville, would create a presumption of equality between mothers and fathers in spending parenting time with their children after they separate.

How It Works in Texas Family Court

In a Texas divorce, child custody is referred to as a “conservatorship”, which is the word used to describe the legal rights and responsibilities of a parent. Texas courts name a child’s custodian parent as a “conservator.”  The most important concern for the court in deciding on a conservatorship plan is what is in best interest of the child.

Texas Child Custody

A family law judge will decide the terms of a “conservatorship” unless both parents reach a custody agreement prior to arriving in a family court. In that case, the court would just need to approve it. According to House Bill 453, the courts must enter a possession schedule that divides the time equally.

Texas Child Conservatorships

  • Joint managing conservatorship (JMC) In a joint managing conservatorship both parties share the rights and duties of a parent. Even in this situation, the exclusive right to make certain decisions may be awarded to one parent only. Remember, the court uses the legal standard of “what is in the best interests of the child. The challenge of a JMC is that when a judge makes both parents JMCs it may not mean that both parents are going to have equal possession and access to the child. Custody and visitation are decided in a separate visitation schedule known as a standard possession order (SPO). When both parents are made conservators, the judge will specify the responsibilities each parent has separately and jointly.
  • Sole managing conservatorship (SMC) Sole managing conservatorship (SMC) means the court grants only one parent the legal right to make certain decisions concerning the child. There are several reasons why a court could grant one parent an SMC. Perhaps one parent doesn’t want joint managing conservatorship (custody) responsibilities.

Child Support and Visitation Schedule

The judge will create a visitation schedule, called a standard possession order, using certain guidelines. Visitation is called possession of and access to a child. A parent can get possession and access, unless the judge determines it is not in the best interests of the child and will endanger the physical or emotional well-being of the child. Parents can either agree on a visitation schedule or the judge will order a schedule he or she thinks is in the best interest of the child. When a Texas court judge makes a decision about child custody, the orders almost always include child support to be paid by the parent that the child doesn’t live with, the “non-custodial parent”.

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