Deciding to get divorced is not easy. But for some parents, it includes an even greater challenge: Making the decision to pursue sole custody of your children. This is a difficult and time-consuming process. But if you think you are ready to take it on, here are some guidelines on how to get sole custody in Texas.
What Does it Mean to Have Sole Custody?
First, a quick explanation. We normally think of “custody” as having possession of a child. That’s correct, but there’s more to it.
There are two types of custody. The parent whom the children primarily live with has physical custody. On the other hand, a parent who has legal custody has the right to be involved in making decisions for the children regarding their education, medical care, and general welfare.
Joint legal custody means both parents have decision-making authority. Sole custody means only one parent has the authority to make decisions for the kids.
What Does It Mean to Be a Conservator?
One other thing we should explain. Texas and a few other states add a wrinkle, because they don’t use the term “custody.” Instead, they refer to conservatorship.
So in Texas, when the divorced parents have equal decision-making authority, it means they have joint managing conservatorship. And when a parent wants exclusive rights to make decisions for the children, it means he or she is requesting to be named sole managing conservator.
It is Very Difficult to Get Sole Custody in Texas
Getting sole custody in Texas is a big step—a very big step. Texas courts try to make decisions based on what they believe is in the best interests of the children. Overwhelmingly, they believe it is best for the kids if they have regular contact with both parents. Essentially, you are asking the court to rule that your ex should play absolutely no role in the lives of his or her children.
Thus, while it is possible to get sole custody, be aware that it is not easy. It will not be enough to say you want this arrangement because your ex is a “bad parent.” You also are unlikely to win the case if your goal is to “punish” your ex.
It will be up to YOU to prove to the court that it is truly in the best interest of your children to terminateDeciding the parental rights of your ex. You will need very strong evidence. We highly recommend you also have the assistance of an experienced divorce lawyer.
What are the Grounds to Get Sole Custody in Texas?
The grounds for getting sole managing conservatorship in Texas are stated in the Texas Family Code, Chapter 161, Subchapter A. Here is a simplified list of why a parent might have his or her parental rights terminated:
- Voluntarily abandoned the child with an expressed intent not to return;
- Was absent for at least three months
- Knowingly engaged in conduct that endangered the well-being of the child, or knowingly allowed the child to be in a situation that endangered his or her well-being
- Failed to provide adequate support for the child over an extended time
- Voluntarily and knowingly abandoned the woman, or failed to provide adequate support, during the time of her pregnancy and through the birth
- Knowingly refused to comply with court orders
- Has been convicted of a serious crime
- Is responsible for the child being born addicted to alcohol or an illegal drug;
- Has abused drugs or alcohol
- Has had his or her parental rights terminated in another case
In short, you must be able to prove that your children will be in serious physical or emotional danger. Note that this is not a complete explanation of the grounds for getting sole custody in Texas. For your specific case, we highly recommend you consult a divorce attorney.
It Can be a Time-consuming and Expensive Process
We have already mentioned that it is difficult to get sole custody in Texas. It also takes time. Your ex is likely to contest you. Lawyers for both sides will need time to prepare their cases. In extreme situations, a sole conservator case can last for years.
Of course, the longer a case goes on, the more expensive it is. In addition, family law is different from personal injury law. Thus, you should not expect to hire a lawyer who will only charge you if he or she wins the case.
We don’t want to discourage you. If you sincerely believe that terminating your ex’s parental rights is the best thing for your kids, then you certainly should pursue it. We just want to be honest with you about the challenges you may face.
Speaking of being honest, we also want you to know that if we think your desire to get sole custody is not a good idea, we will tell you.
Be Willing to Consider Alternatives to Sole Custody
There are alternatives to sole managing conservatorship. For example, you could ask the court to limit the amount of access and visitation rights your ex has. Another option is that your ex is denied only some decision-making authority. The more things you are willing to negotiate, the more receptive the court may be to your requests. You also may have more success with your ex.
Be aware that even if you get sole custody in Texas, the court may still award visitation rights to your ex. In addition, if you do become sole managing conservator, it is likely that your ex will not have to provide any child support.
What if I am at Risk of Losing Custody in Texas?
Most people want to have an amicable divorce. But while it’s nice if you are trying to “avoid conflict,” your children are a different matter. If you decide to handle your own conservator case in Texas, you might make a mistake. And that could leave your ex with sole custody.
True, you can always go back to the judge and request a court modification. But the judge may well wonder why you didn’t pursue this option in the first place. Filing an appeal also is going to cost you more time—and more money.
In a Texas Sole Custody Case, the Stakes are High
Divorces can get complicated and emotional, especially if there are children or significant assets involved. Our Fort Worth, Texas, attorneys are very experienced in both divorce and custody cases. Even if you don’t get sole custody in Texas, The Maynard Law Firm, PLLC, can help you secure the parental rights that are most important to you.
When it comes to doing what is best for your children, the stakes aren’t just high—it’s all in. Don’t risk making a mistake you may regret for years to come. Contact us today at 817-335-9600.