Texas Requirements For Full Child Custody

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Torn child's drawing of a family illustrating their impression of child custody in Texas divorce.
Texas Family Court Child Custody focuses on the well being of the child.

After a divorce in Texas, the court’s preference is to award parents joint custody of their children. The idea is here that giving children access to both their parents is what’s in their best interest.

Indeed, in a perfect world, both parents would be equal partners when raising their child. However, we all know this can’t always be the case. Some people are simply unfit to be parents or cannot provide adequate care. Fortunately, Texas law recognizes this truth and allows the court to make decisions based on what’s best for the child.

What the Law Says About Child Custody

Per Chapter 153 of the Texas family code, the best interest of the child transcends all other considerations. In other words, when the child is better off in the custody of one parent versus two, state law allows it.

Like most matters of family law, child custody is a complex legal issue. In this article, we’ll walk you through Texas requirements for full child custody. We’ll also cover related topics, such as child support payments.

If you need legal support for your custody case, contact our award-winning Fort Worth family lawyers for a free consultation. We specialize in custody cases and will defend your parental rights to help you achieve the results you desire. Even if you only need information or want to ask questions, don’t hesitate to call!

How Does Child Custody Work in Texas?

Let’s start by defining a few key terms. First and foremost, the word for “custody” in the state of  Texas is “conservator.” A parent during a divorce is not awarded custody of their child, but rather conservatorship. Since it’s the more familiar term, we’ll often refer to conservatorship as child custody in this article.

Under family law in Texas, there are three types of conservatorships.

  • Joint Managing Conservator: Both parties have the right to make decisions regarding most issues.
  • Sole Managing Conservator: One party has the exclusive right to make decisions regarding the child.
  • Possessory Conservator: The party that is not the Sole Managing Conservator. This parent may have some rights and duties, but they are generally limited in scope.

As noted previously, judges in Texas prefer making parents joint managing conservators because it generally serves the best interests of the child. Under this construct, one parent receives custodial rights. This is the parent with whom the child lives and spends most of their time. However, the noncustodial parent is still very much involved in the child’s life.

Among their rights and duties, the noncustodial parent will have possession of the child at least 35% of the year. They will also be legally empowered to help make parenting decisions about the child’s…

  • Healthcare
  • Family values
  • Education
  • And more

In a joint managing conservatorship, the noncustodial parent still has meaningful parental rights. However, this is not always the case in a sole custody arrangement.

How to Gain Sole Physical Custody After a Divorce

Texas judges prefer making parents joint managing conservators but certain situations can lead to sole child custody.
Texas judges prefer making parents joint managing conservators but certain situations can lead to sole child custody.

Divorce isn’t your only opportunity to gain full child custody in Texas. In short, if you’re upset with the original ruling or circumstances change materially, you can petition for sole custody after the divorce. The process for doing this is known as a court order modification.

Under family law in the state of Texas, either parent can petition to modify the custody arrangement at any time. However, the court will only consider a modification if there’s a “material and substantial” change in circumstances. The exception to this will be if both parents agree to the shift.

Our Fort Worth family lawyers are as familiar with family code as we are with Texas courts. We can walk you through the Texas requirements for full child custody, and help get you the results you desire.

Visitation Rights for Noncustodial Parents

While the possessory conservator does not live with their child, they may still retain some parental rights. This may include the right to petition for child access through scheduled visitation. In cases where the noncustodial parent is considered a potential threat, visitation sessions may be limited and happen under supervision.

Visitation is a way for the noncustodial parent to have some access to the child, even when they don’t have custody. As a result, the court prefers this because it maintains some degree of the parent-child relationship.

How to Make a Case For Sole Custody in Texas

Texas Child Custody laws seek to find the optimal solution for the wellbeing of a child.
Texas Child Custody laws seek to find the best solution for the wellbeing of a child.

Judges in the state of Texas require a compelling reason to change any court order. Consequently, their standard is exceptionally high when it comes to awarding sole child custody. As stated previously, judges consider above all else what’s in the best interests of the child. Most of the time, this is having access to both parents.

The court recognizes that in some cases, what’s in the best interest of the child is to be in the care of just one parent. After all, judges don’t want dangerous parents to have access to the child, let alone to make decisions for the child.

If your child is better off in your custody alone, the Fort Worth custody lawyers at Sean Lynch can help. Our experienced Texas family lawyers specialize in child custody cases and will give you the best chance of winning.

The court order modification process in Texas is challenging to navigate, and you don’t want to take it on alone. Whether you have legal questions or need immediate support, contact our award-winning law firm for a free consultation about your Texas child custody case.

Reasons For Being Awarded Sole Child Custody in Texas

In cases where the judge deems it necessary, one parent may receive sole custody of a child. This can happen either during a divorce or after the fact via a court order modification. To win full custody in Texas, you will need to prove that your ex-spouse is unfit to be a parent or has created a poor environment. More on this below.

Generally speaking, being granted full custody will have less to do with you and more to do with your co-parent. In other words, the judge is unlikely to award you sole managing conservatorship unless your ex is unfit — even if you’re the best mother or father in the world.

These are some of the top reasons your ex-spouse could be considered unfit to parent. While these provide helpful information, keep in mind that Texas child custody cases are nuanced. It’s essential to hire an experienced Tarrant County family law attorney who has your best interest at heart.

Domestic Violence

If your ex-spouse has a history of domestic violence, it could be grounds for the judge awarding you sole child custody. That’s especially true if the instance or pattern of physical abuse led to your petition for divorce.

It should come as no surprise that judges in the state of Texas do not treat domestic violence lightly. Giving a parent with a history of abusive behavior joint custody is bad for everyone. Parents with a history of abuse may even struggle to gain visitation rights without supervision.

Emotional Abuse

With mental health issues drawing heightened attention in Texas and throughout the country, judges are more inclined to consider the impact emotional abuse can have on a child. Abusive behavior goes beyond just verbal tirades against the child. In addition, it may also include neglect and manipulation.

One type of manipulation that we see quite often is parents who try to “turn” their child against their ex-spouse. If your ex is manipulating your child into thinking less of you, it may rise to the standard needed to petition for sole custody. The experienced family lawyers at Sean Lynch are happy to review your case and provide affordable legal advice based on your best interests.

Violating a Court Order

During a divorce, the judge will dictate the parental rights of each party. This includes issues relating to child visitation and child custody. If you violate your court order, you could owe fees and costs to your spouse. What’s more, the court could even hold you in contempt.

Repeated court order violations could eventually result in parental rights being revoked or reduced. That’s especially true if the violations are glaring and intentional. For example, let’s say your co-parent takes the child or children on an unscheduled vacation on your parenting days. You can file a complaint to the court, which could result in a court order modification that terminates his or her custodial rights.


If your co-parent consistently fails to tend to their children’s basic needs, you can make a case of neglect. This is a serious charge that you must have a strong case to prove, including specific examples. Proving neglect is often difficult because, in many cases, it’s unseen. That’s why it’s crucial to have testimony from people who’ve seen the neglect take place.

It’s also important to keep in mind that neglect is more than just a one-time mistake, like forgetting to pick up your child from football practice or pack them a lunch. It’s a pattern of carelessness and disregard that puts your child’s physical or emotional health at risk.

Does Having Sole Physical Custody in Texas Affect Child Support?

Having sole custody can affect the amount you receive in child support. Unlike a joint managing conservatorship, when the child will share time with both parents, having sole physical custody means the child will be in your possession the vast majority of the time. As a result, you’ll be singularly responsible for all of your child’s living expenses, including:

  • Housing
  • Education
  • Healthcare
  • Nutrition
  • Clothes

Given the financial burden of paying for your child’s education, healthcare, and more, it’s only fair that you receive additional compensation. This is especially true if you’re transitioning from a joint custody arrangement.

How Much Child Support Can I Receive

If you have sole physical custody of your child, you could be entitled to additional child support. Several factors determine the amount you’re eligible to receive in the state of Texas, including:

  • The number of children
  • The non-custodial parent’s income
  • The non-custodial parent’s overall financial situation

Generally speaking, you can determine the amount using the following formula.

Number of childrenPayer’s monthly net income
1Multiply monthly net income by 20%
2Multiply monthly net income by 25%
3Multiply monthly net income by 30%
4Multiply monthly net income by 35%
5Multiply monthly net income by 40%
6 or moreMultiply monthly net income by at least 40% 

Contact Our Top Fort Worth Family Attorneys

The award-winning child custody lawyers at Sean Lynch, PLLC, provide top legal services in Fort Worth, Arlington, and elsewhere in Tarrant County.

Beyond our professionalism and experience, what separates us from other law firms is our pricing. Unlike other family law attorneys, we are up-front about our pricing, so you know what you’ll pay in your family law case. And we ALWAYS have your best interest, and the best interest of the child, at heart.

Whether you’re going through a divorce or seeking a court order modification, one of our top lawyers is ready to assist in your Texas child custody case. Our attorneys are not only legal experts; they’re parents, too. We understand the importance of custody and take matters involving parental rights and the welfare of children personally.

The search for the right family lawyer is over. Contact our family law practice today to schedule a no-cost consultation with a top-rated attorney in Fort Worth.

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