In Texas, we’re used to hearing some tall tales that have been around so long, they’ve become more fact than fiction. So when it comes to child custody in the Lone Star State, it’s no surprise that a few yarns have been spun.
When our Tarrant County, Texas-area clients come to us, they are sometimes under the belief that a few of these myths are truth. To help clarify some of these Texas child custody law misunderstandings, we’ve highlighted a few of the top ones we hear around the firm.
Parents Who Don’t Pay Their Child Support Can’t See their Children
When your ex has missed a few child support payments, it might sound pretty appealing to prevent them from seeing your child. That’ll show them!
But before you let emotion cloud your judgment, consider the consequences. If you withhold possession and access of your child, your ex may not be the only one getting in trouble with the court.
In the eyes of the court, child support payments aren’t linked to parenting time. That being said, failure to pay for child support does not guarantee that your ex will be denied visitation.
If your child’s other parent is behind on child support payments, instead of attempting to withhold custody or visitation, talk to your lawyer about what your options are in the state of Texas for enforcing the child custody order.
The Mother is Usually Favored by the Court for Child Custody
More and more fathers in Texas are being awarded primary custody of their children, especially in the larger counties like Tarrant. When evaluating which parent will be the primary guardian, the court doesn’t consider the parent’s gender – they are more concerned with the best interests of the child.
Texas child custody law is written so that children can see, or are in contact with, both parents. The goal of these laws is to to encourage divorced parents to share parenting rights and duties.
There are some cases where the mother may be more likely to gain primary custody. For example, if the child is still young, such as an infant who is still breastfeeding, the mother may be granted primary custody and the father will have a modified possession schedule.
A Parent Can Get Full Custody in Texas
In Texas, the courts favor granting both parents access to the child. Parents are presumed to be joint managing conservators and share in the decision making.
However, if there are issues of substance abuse, child neglect, or violence, a sole custody or sole conservatorship will be granted to the other parent. The parent awarded sole custody will then be the one who makes the majority of the decisions on behalf of the child.
A Child Can Decide Which Parent they Want to Live With at a Certain Age
At some point, the rumour was spread far and wide that once a child reaches the age of 12, they get to choose which parent they get to live with.
This is just not true. No law says this.
If the child tells the judge that they want to live with a specific parent, the court can consider that in its decision, but it is not necessarily the deciding factor. The child’s request will need to be evaluated by the judge, and reports from a neutral party, such as a psychologist, may be taken into consideration.
Parents Who Get Along Don’t Need to get the Court Involved
So you get along with your ex. That’s fantastic! You’re one of the lucky ones.
However, just because you and your ex are respectful to each other and play a mean co-parenting game, don’t assume you won’t need to involve your lawyers or the court.
Things may be coasting along smoothly at the moment, but what considerations have you made for if your ex moves or gets married? Or maybe you and your ex have a falling out and you no longer get along. Or perhaps your schedule and your ex’s start to conflict and you can’t agree on when you’ll see your child. You’re going to need a child custody order before and not after these things happen to ensure you and your child are protected.
It may seem like this is unnecessary. You may never need to revisit the arrangement and everything may continue to work out, but having one in place now will prevent the need to have to drag each other into court in the future.