Navigating child custody disputes can be an emotional and overwhelming journey for many parents. This is especially true when there are questions about how the court makes custody decisions. For example, many people believe that mothers have an advantage in custody matters. Do mothers get custody in Texas, or is that a misconception? Whether you are a mother wondering about your rights or a father seeking clarity, our Texas child custody lawyers discuss Texas custody laws and offer insights for both mothers and fathers below.
Is Texas a Mother State?
The common misconception is that courts prefer or automatically choose mothers in child custody cases. On the contrary, Texas is neither a mother nor a father state. The sex of the parent is not a determining factor in Texas custody decisions.
In fact, the Texas Family Code explicitly prohibits Texas divorce courts from discriminating based on sex when making decisions about child custody or visitation rights. Therefore, both mothers and fathers have an equal right to seek custody of their children. Texas courts make custody decisions using the “best interest of the child” standard.
What Is the Best Interest of the Child Standard?
Under Texas law, the court’s primary consideration for custody decisions is the “best interest of the child.” This standard involves the court evaluating various factors relevant to the case to determine a custody arrangement in the child’s best interest.
When determining child custody, Texas courts consider numerous factors. These factors may include, but are not limited to:
- Wishes of the child if the child is at least 12 years of age
- Current and future emotional and physical needs of the child
- Current and future emotional and physical dangers to the child
- Parental abilities of the individuals seeking custody
- Stability of each parent’s living situation
- Programs available to assist the individuals seeking custody
- Plans for the child by the individuals seeking custody
- Acts or omissions by each parent and the excuses for them
Texas law presumes fostering and maintaining healthy relationships with both parents is in the child’s best interest. The law encourages parents to share the rights and duties of raising their child after separation or divorce. Under this presumption, Texas courts prefer parents to have joint managing conservatorship unless sole conservatorship is warranted.
Joint managing conservatorship means that both parents have shared legal custody of their child and can make important decisions concerning the child. Typically, one parent, called the custodial parent, will have primary physical custody, meaning the child will primarily live with them. The other parent, called the non-custodial parent, will get visitation rights.
Do Mothers Have More Rights than Fathers in Texas?
Mothers do not have more rights than fathers in Texas, provided paternity has been established. Our Texas child custody attorneys explain these laws below.
What Are an Unmarried Mother’s Rights in Texas for Custody?
When a child is born to unmarried parents, the mother may be granted sole legal and physical custody until the father establishes paternity. By default, the mother has the right to make all decisions about the child’s welfare, education, and health without consulting with the father. Additionally, the mother can decide where the child will live. However, the mother has no legal right to child support if paternity is not established.
There are a few presumptions of paternity under the law. If one or more of the following circumstances exist, then paternity is presumed when the child is born:
- The father is married to the child’s mother, and the child is born during the marriage.
- The child is born before the 301st day after the date the marriage between the father and mother is terminated.
- The father married the child’s mother after birth and voluntarily asserted his paternity in accordance with Texas law.
- The father continuously resided in the child’s household during the first two years of the child’s life and represented to others that he was the child’s father.
If paternity has not been established, for the biological father to have rights to the child, he must establish paternity. Once he establishes paternity, the father can pursue custody and visitation rights. Until then, the mother generally retains sole custody rights.
You can learn more about Texas custody laws for unmarried parents and how to establish paternity here.
What Are a Married Mother’s Rights in Texas for Custody?
When parents are married and have a child, both parents have presumed parental rights, which means both parents have custody rights to the child. Neither parent has a superior right over the child. Instead, they both have the right to decide about their child’s health, education, and welfare. Neither parent has a superior right over the child.
When parents decide to divorce, we understand that child custody becomes a primary concern. During divorce proceedings, if parents cannot agree on a custody arrangement, the court will determine one based on the child’s best interests.
Can a Mom Get Full Custody in Texas?
A mother or a father can obtain full custody or sole managing conservatorship of their child. However, it is important to understand that Texas courts prefer joint custody. Unless it is in the child’s best interest to award sole custody to one parent, the court will likely award legal custody to both parents. Even if the court awards sole custody to one parent, this does not mean the other parent will not obtain visitation rights.
A few factors that might lead a court to grant full custody to one parent include, but are not limited to:
- History of domestic violence or sexual abuse
- Child abuse or neglect
- Drug or alcohol abuse or addiction
- Absence from the child’s life
- Criminal history or incarceration
Contact Our Texas Child Custody Lawyers for a Consultation
Are you a mother or father facing a child custody dispute in Texas? We understand this may be a difficult time for you, and custody decisions can significantly impact your family. Our Texas child custody lawyers are here to advocate for you and your child’s best interests.
At Warren & Migliaccio, we represent individuals in a wide range of family law cases, including divorce and child custody. Do not hesitate to schedule a consultation with us to discuss your situation and how we may be able to help you. Contact us online or call our office to schedule your consultation.