Custody in Texas may be joint or sole, and when the parents are joint managing conservators together, they share decision-making authority, although certain types of decisions may still be given exclusively to one or the other. For example, one parent might have the power to make decisions about the religious upbringing of a child and the other the power to decide the child’s primary residence, with all other important decisions made together like those concerning medical and educational matters.
When a child lives solely with or more with one parent, the other parent is likely to have visitation rights (in Texas a possessory conservatorship or parenting time). This includes both time spent together and electronic communication. The parenting plan for the family should contain a visitation schedule that lays out how holidays, birthdays and vacations are to be shared, as well as evening and weekend times spent with the possessory conservator.
If the spouses cannot agree on custody and visitation, the judge will make these decisions. Texas public policy is to continue child contact with parents who can act in their children’s best interests; to keep kids in safe, stable environments; and to support parents in sharing parental rights and duties after divorce.
As in other states, Texas law directs the judge to always make the child’s best interests the highest priority in any custody determination. The judge has broad discretion in determining the particular child’s best interests, but when they are not the same as the parents’ best interests, the child’s best interests prevail.
If the child is at least 12 years old, the judge must interview the child about his or her custody and residential preferences if the involved parties or attorneys request it or if the judge wants to. If the child is under 12, the judge has discretion whether to interview the child when requested by these parties.