This is a common question we hear from parents at our Fort Worth law firm. The answer to this question depends on what the parent believes “full custody” or “sole custody” means because custody isn’t a term used in Texas law. If you’re hoping to get full custody of your child in Texas, you can expect the family court to focus on conservatorship instead, as well as rights, duties, visitation and child support.
What’s the closest thing to sole custody in Texas?
Again, it depends on your goals. If you want to permanently strip the other parent of all rights and access to your child, you would need to legally terminate the rights of the other parent. Terminating parental rights in Texas isn’t easy either, especially if the other parent won’t voluntarily relinquish those rights.
The state of Texas and its family court judges are reluctant to terminate parental rights because they believe it’s usually in the best interest of the child to have a relationship with both parents. You would need to prove the parent poses a physical or psychological danger to the child in order to terminate parental rights, and even then, it isn’t a slam dunk.
The other option is to seek sole managing conservatorship of the child. As a sole managing conservator, you would have the right to make all or most of the decisions regarding your child’s care. This generally includes the child’s residence, medical care and education.
Depending on the situation, the other parent may be named a possessory conservator. Parents with possessory conservatorship may be granted visitation and the right to perform certain parental duties that address the child’s needs during visitation. However, if you can prove that the parent poses a physical or psychological threat to the child, the court may restrict or deny those rights.
What if I just want to be the one who makes all decisions for my child?
If you can’t convince the court that you should have sole custody—either through termination of parental rights or a sole managing conservatorship—you and the other parent will likely end up sharing custody as joint managing conservators. That also means it’s highly unlikely that you’ll be able to make all decisions for your child.
Under a joint managing conservatorship, both parents will need to agree—or the judge will decide for you—which rights and duties each parent will be assigned and responsible to fulfill. For the court, which parent will handle specific duties and related decision-making is typically based on who primarily handled those duties and decisions in the past.
The devil is in the details when rights and duties are determined
It’s super helpful to work with a family law firm that is proactive about explaining the complexities of parental rights and duties to you and experienced in negotiating child custody agreements. Trust us, there are A LOT of rights and duties to cover, and you want to make sure all of your “I”s are dotted and “T”s are crossed. Top-notch family law firms pay close attention to those details and know how to be creative when negotiating.
At the Sisemore Law Firm, we often go through give and take during custody negotiations, where we give some power away but take a little back. For example, say a mother living in Tarrant County has always taken the lead on enrolling her child in school and managing related activities. The father could agree to let her make education decisions as long as the child attends a school of his choosing, such as Country Day School or Trinity Valley School in Fort Worth.
Say that same father is a doctor, and he wants to make all decisions related to the child’s medical care. The mother could agree as long as she could choose where treatment would take place, like a Baylor-affiliated clinic or hospital.
It’s important to note that once you agree to allow the other parent to make the decisions for and handle a certain aspect of the child’s care, you no longer have a say. You’ve relinquished that right, and short of going back to court to modify your custody orders, you’ll have to accept the other parent’s decisions (and they yours).
Have questions about sole custody and parental rights in Tarrant County?
The experienced family law attorneys at the Sisemore Law Firm in Fort Worth are here to help. To schedule a confidential case review with our founder Justin Sisemore, contact our office at 817.336.4444 or visit our contact page to schedule online.