If you are lucky, you can get through a divorce without too much stress. Perhaps your spouse wants to get divorced as well and is willing to work with you. But while some divorces can go smoothly, custody cases can be very different. Rarely will a parent give up his or her parental rights without a fight. If you are determined to have full possession of your children, you will need to make sure you do it correctly. So here are some key things to know about how to file for custody in Texas.
Gaining Full Custody in Texas Is Not Easy
We need to say this upfront: In Texas, it is very difficult to terminate someone’s parental rights. This is because, in the State of Texas, courts make custody decisions based on what they believe is in the best interests of the children. And courts believe that, ideally, it is best for kids if both parents are equally involved in their lives.
You may have seen movies or TV shows where lawyers talk about the “burden of proof” in a criminal case. If you are filing for custody in Texas, the burden of proof will be on YOU.
Therefore, you will need to be able to make a very strong case to the court. And to do that, you will need clear and convincing evidence.
What is the Difference Between Full Custody and Sole Conservatorship in Texas?
“Full custody” has two pieces. Physical custody means children live with one parent full-time. The other parent usually has visitation rights. Legal custody means that a parent has the authority to make decisions for the children regarding their education, medical care, and general well-being.
However, Texas courts do not use the term “custody.” Instead, they use the term conservator.
So while your friends and family may talk about who will get custody, your attorney and the court will talk about who will be a conservator. There is no difference, it is just a matter of terms. The main thing to know is that Texas courts call full custody sole managing conservatorship.
Before You File For Sole Custody in Texas, Make Sure It’s the Right Decision
Before you hire a divorce lawyer, make sure you really want sole managing conservatorship. For example, perhaps you want the children to live with you, but you are willing to let your ex be involved in making decisions for the kids. This is knowns as joint managing conservatorship.
As you might guess, it is much harder to be named sole managing conservator. So before you file for full custody in Texas, make sure this is what you really want. An experienced divorce lawyer can help you think this through.
Gather Evidence to Support Your Plan to File for Full Custody in Texas
As soon as you decide you want to file for sole managing conservatorship, you should start gathering evidence. If possible, start even sooner. If you have any thoughts that you might eventually decide to file for full custody in Texas, start gathering information right away.
Examples of evidence include employment records, bank statements, emails, text messages, photos, and of course, relevant police reports. If your family has been working with a psychologist or social worker, these people may be able to serve as expert witnesses or provide a written statement.
The judge will take all this information into consideration in making a decision about full custody. And because the burden of proof is on you, you will need every bit of helpful evidence.
You Will Need to Fill out the Necessary Legal Documents
Like other states, our state has a very specific process on how to file for sole custody in
Texas. In Tarrant County, you will need to complete a form called the Suit Affecting the Parent-Child Relationship. Note that you have to pay a fee to file this form.
This document formally notifies the court that you are filing for sole custody in Texas. It also notifies the other parent of your intention to terminate his or her parental rights. Most likely, the other parents will file a petition opposing your request.
We Will Tell You the Truth About Full Custody in Texas
As we said, Texas courts make custody decisions based on what is in the best interests of the children. The Maynard Law Firm, PLLC, not only accepts this position, we actively support it.
So if we feel strongly that it is not in the best interests of your children for you to file for full custody in Texas, we will probably tell you so. We know this may now be what you want to hear, but we believe it is what you need to hear. This is another reason we have a reputation as being some of the best divorce lawyers in Tarrant County.
You Can File for Full Custody in Texas Based on Parental Abandonment
If the other parent has abandoned your children, this can strengthen your case to have the court terminate his or her parental rights. Examples of abandonment include:
- When you can prove that a parent voluntarily left the child with someone other than the other parent with an expressed intent to not return.
- Voluntarily leaving the child with someone (not the other parent) without expressing an intent to return, but remaining away for a period of three months without providing sufficient support.
- If a parent voluntarily left the child in the possession of someone else (not the other parent), and remaining away for a period of at least six months without providing sufficient support.
- If a partner voluntarily and knowingly abandoned the mother during her pregnancy or shortly after the birth.
Note this should not be considered a complete and comprehensive description.
You Can File for Full Custody in Texas Based on Endangerment
If you can prove that the other parent has endangered the children, the court may be willing to terminate his or her parental rights. Examples of endangerment include:
- Knowingly allowing the child to be put in surroundings or a situation that endangers his or her physical or emotional wellbeing.
- Has been convicted of or under community supervision for being criminally responsible for the death or serious injury of a child under certain sections of the penal code.
- Using a controlled substance in a manner that endangers the health or safety of a child.
- Giving birth to a child addicted to alcohol or an illegal controlled substance
- Being convicted of a crime, including sexual assault and murder.
Note that this is not a complete list. The grounds for termination of parental rights are stated in Chapter 161, Subchapter A of the Texas Family Code. In addition, you also need to be able to provide proof of these allegations. This is another area where a skilled divorce attorney in Tarrant County can help you.
To File For Full Custody in Texas, Hire an Attorney
Is it possible to get full custody on your own? Yes. Even so, we recommend you hire an attorney to assist you. There are two reasons for this.
First, custody cases can get complicated. Your spouse probably will fight very hard to defend hir or her parental rights, including hiring a lawyer. Their attorney also will work hard to get your request denied. If you make a mistake in the court process, it could have a serious, long-term impact on your plan to file for custody in Texas.
Just as important, custody cases can be very emotional. They can involve anger, bitterness, and accusations. In addition, it can be very hard not to let all of this conflict affect your children.
If you hire an attorney to file for full custody, he or she will handle the negotiations. This provides an important buffer between you and the other parent, helping minimize the amount of conflict between the two of you. And if there is less open conflict between you and your spouse, there probably will be less impact on your children.
To File for Full Custody in Texas, Hire an Experienced, Compassionate Attorney
As we have said, custody cases can be complicated and emotional. If you are getting divorced, chances are, there is already some tension between you and your spouse. Now add in the fact that you are going to file for sole custody in Texas, and you are looking at a potentially very difficult case. Maynard Law Firm, PLLC, is ready to assist you. We will fight for your custody rights, all the while doing everything we can to make sure your children do not experience any unnecessary stress. For compassionate, experienced help from one of the best divorce law firms in Tarrant County, call us today at 817-335.9600.