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.
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.
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).
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.