HOW DO TEXAS COURTS DETERMINE CUSTODY
Texas refers to physical child custody as possession and access. Divorcing families must work with the court to establish a legal possession order that details the custody and visitation schedule for children.
The custody process:
Parents can create their own possession order if they agree about how to share time with their children. If they cannot agree, they can decide to attend mediation to negotiate fair terms. They can also request a hearing with the local family court judge, who will make a legally binding custody determination.
Best interests of the child:
The court strives to make a custody and visitation arrangement that serves the child’s best interests. When parents cannot independently agree on a possession schedule, the judge may consider:
• The ability of each parent to provide a safe, stable, nurturing environment for the child
• The importance of keeping siblings in the same residence
• How close the parents live to one another
• The child’s wishes if he or she is at least 12 years old
• The ability of the parents to cooperate with one another
• The child care and parenting aptitude of each parent
• The child’s physical and emotional needs and each parent’s ability to meet these needs
After establishing a legal custody order, parents cannot modify the order unless they agree on the changes or the court determines that the requested changes serve the child’s best interests.