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San Antonio Child Custody Attorneys

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Determining child custody for minor children is often one of the most stressful and overwhelming aspects of ending a relationship with children. In San Antonio, courts determine child custody by analyzing certain evidence and applying relevant law and standards. It is critical that all involved parties have a thorough understanding of the various options available and how San Antonio courts make their child custody determinations.

Legal versus Physical Custody in San Antonio

Custody is divided into two distinct categories: legal and physical. Legal custody refers to a parent’s right to raise a minor child and make decisions regarding that child’s daily life, including where the child goes to school and other educational considerations, what religion the child observes, what medical treatments the child receives, and what activities the child participates in. Physical custody refers to physical possession of the minor child. In San Antonio, a parent who has physical custody over a minor is called the “possessory conservator,” and the child resides with that parent (discussed more thoroughly below).

San Antonio courts have several options when determining conservatorship and can craft an arrangement that works best for the minor child before it. For instance, the court can award joint legal custody, which refers to situations in which the minor child(ren) primarily resides with one parent, however, both parents share decision-making responsibilities.

Types of Child Custody in San Antonio

While many in Texas speak of “child custody,” Texas law actually refers to matters involving minor children in terms of “conservatorship”. Essentially, conservatorship establishes who will make decisions for the minor child and have the right to possession of and access to the child.

In Texas, there are two types of conservators that can be appointed for a minor child: (1) a managing conservator and (2) a possessory conservator. With regards to managing conservators, there are two types: (1) Sole Managing Conservator (SMC) and (2) Joint Managing Conservator (JMC).

  • Sole Managing Conservator: A SMC is a person who is granted certain exclusive rights to make decisions for the child.
  • Joint Managing Conservator: By contrast, a JMC is one of two or more people who share the rights and duties of a parent, even when the exclusive right to make certain decisions is granted to only one person (i.e. the exclusive right to determine the child’s primary residence).
  • Possessory ConservatorA Possessory Conservator (PC) is a person who has the right to possession of a child at specified times and under specified conditions and who also has the right to exercise certain parental rights during periods of possession.

San Antonio Child Custody Presumption

Under Texas law, San Antonio courts presume that the parents should be JMCs, meaning that parents should share decision-making responsibilities regarding a minor child as practically as possible. However, this does not necessarily mean that the child’s time would be evenly split between the parents.  And, moreover, in instances involving parental misconduct, neglect, domestic violence, abuse, or parental absence, one parent may be named the SMC and PC (see above).

As noted, in San Antonio child custody cases, the court presumes that it is in the minor child’s best interests for the parents to act as JMCs. However, evidence can be presented to demonstrate otherwise and the best interest of the child will transcend all other considerations.

Best Interests Analysis

The Texas Family Code states, “the best interest of the child shall always be the primary consideration of the court in determining the issues of conservatorship and possession of and access to the child” (Tex.Fam.Code § 153.002).

While age can also be a critical factor in the best interests analysis, some of the best interest factors include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • the child’s wishes
  • the emotional and physical needs of the child both now and in the future
  • any emotional and physical danger posed by either parent to the child now and in the future
  • the parental abilities of the individuals seeking custody
  • relevant plans that the individuals seeking custody may have for the child
  • the stability of both parents’ homes and any acts or omissions of a parent which may indicate that the existing parent-child relationship is not a proper one

Third party custody

In San Antonio child custody cases, if both of the child’s parents are deceased or if both parents are unfit to care for a minor child, then a third party can be awarded custody. A third party in such a circumstance might include a relative or close family friend. If a particular relative or family friend had been caring for the child for more than six months, then that party has the right to file for third party child custody.

Mandatory Parenting Class

In San Antonio child custody cases, the courts mandate that divorcing parents of minor children complete a parenting class before the divorce is granted. This requirement is intended to help parents and children manage the challenges inherent to divorce and process any trauma associated therewith. Unless the San Antonio court grants one or both parents a waiver, both parents must fulfill this requirement. The mandatory parenting class requirement can be completed online.

Contact a San Antonio Child Custody Attorney

Child custody attorneys at Kirker Davis LLP can answer any questions or address any concerns that you may have about San Antonio child custody determinations. If you have questions regarding child custody or would like more information, contact Kirker | Davis LLP to schedule a meeting with a lawyer today.

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