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Primary Child Custody Factors in Texas

The parent who spends the most time with a child is referred to as having "primary custody." In Texas, child custody is described in terms of "conservatorships." A conservatorship involves the ability to make legal decisions for the child including decisions regarding education, health care, and religious training. A parent can be appointed as the child's sole managing conservator which means that the chosen parent is the only one with decision-making ability. When the decision-making is shared, a joint conservatorship is formed.

Texas courts presume that it's in the child's best interests to appoint parents as conservators, but that's not always possible. To overcome this presumption, there must be proof showing that appointing parents as conservators would significantly impair the child's emotional development or physical health and that other non-parent conservators are needed. When deciding on a conservatorship, courts will weigh a number of factors, as detailed below.

Overview of Primary Child Custody Factors in Texas

Whenever you're involved with legal issues, you want to make sure that you know the full meaning of the statutes. However, it's also helpful to learn about the law with clear and relatable language. See the chart below for a summary of the laws that describe the factors used to determine primary child custody in Texas.


Factors That Can't be Considered

Prohibition on Discrimination

When making decisions regarding the appointment of a parent as a sole managing conservator or a joint conservator, the court can't use the parent's marital status or the sex of either the parent or the child as a basis for the decision.

Factors That Can be Considered

The court uses the following factors for conservatorship determinations:

  • The child's age and preferences
  • The child's emotional and physical needs
  • The child's relationship to each parent
  • Each parent's health and finances
  • Any history of abuse or neglect

History of Domestic Violence or Sexual Abuse

The court can consider evidence of the intentional use of abusive physical force or sexual abuse by a party against the party's spouse, the parent of the child, or anyone under 18 within 2 years prior to the filing of the case. The court can't appoint a person as a sole managing conservator or a joint conservator if credible evidence of the following is found:

  • A history/pattern of past or present child neglect; or
  • A history/pattern of physical or sexual abuse by one parent against the other parent, a spouse, or a child including a sexual assault that results in the other parent becoming pregnant.

Note: State laws are always subject to change through the passage of new legislation, rulings in the higher courts (including federal decisions), ballot initiatives, and other means. While we strive to provide the most current information available, please consult an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

Primary Child Custody Factors in Texas: Related Resources

Talk to an Experienced Texas Attorney about Your Custody Issues

The importance of gaining custody of your child can't be overstated. Knowing the factors that Texas uses to determine custody is an initial step in assessing your custody rights. Get more information about your specific case from a skilled family law attorney near you.

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