Divorce impacts everyone, especially children. As a parent, you want to do what’s best for your child so they can grow and thrive. Although children benefit from building relationships with both their parents, certain circumstances may require you to step in and request full legal custody of your child. How do you know if a sole custody arrangement is in your child’s best interests? What grounds must you establish to request sole custody of a child in Texas?
The Dallas child custody attorneys at Balekian Hayes, PLLC, know you have questions. Our legal team is committed to helping you understand your rights and the steps you can take to protect your child during a tumultuous time.
What Are Basic Parental Rights in Texas?
In Texas, parents have basic parental rights outlined by law. Although many believe the legal system prioritizes mothers, each parent has the fundamental right to “physically possess” their child. Each parent also has the right to participate in vital decision-making. This decision-making involves contributing to their child’s legal, health, educational, and religious decisions.
When individuals bring a child into the world, that decision comes with rights and responsibilities. Legally, both parents share these rights and responsibilities. However, when parents divorce, dividing these rights and responsibilities can get complicated.
What Is Sole Custody?
There are several different categories of child custody arrangements in Texas. Technically, “full custody” is not a legal term. When parents refer to seeking full custody, they typically want to pursue sole custody of a child. There are two distinct legal child custody classifications:
- Legal custody
- Physical custody
A parent’s ability to make decisions concerning their child’s care and upbringing is called legal custody. Physical custody refers to where the child primarily lives. A custodial parent is the parent with whom the child primarily lives. The non-custodial parent has limited time living with the child or has visitation rights.
In Texas, the courts can review a child’s situation to determine what type of custody arrangement addresses the child’s best interests. Joint custody cases can involve a combination of physical and legal custody. Parents with joint legal custody of a child share the power to make decisions on behalf of the child. Parents with joint physical custody live with the child for a reasonably equal amount of time.
Sole legal custody arrangements mean only one parent makes decisions regarding the child’s welfare, while sole physical custody arrangements mean the child only lives with the primary custodial parent.
What Is Required to Obtain Sole Custody in Texas?
The legal system recognizes that children benefit from forming and building relationships with both parents. Joint custody arrangements are seen as being in a child’s best interest because both parents have access to their child and can continue to form meaningful parental bonds. However, there are circumstances where a sole custody arrangement, or sole managing conservatorship, may benefit you and your child.
Child custody arrangements are determined with the best interests of the child in mind. For a judge to grant sole legal custody of a child to one parent, you must prove that it is in your child’s best interests to avoid contact or limit the decision-making abilities of the other parent. When considering custody cases, the courts look at the following:
- The child’s physical and emotional needs
- Age and physical and mental condition of each parent
- Age and physician, and mental condition of the child
- The relationship between the child and both parents
- The role each parent plays in the care and raising of the child
- The willingness of each parent to foster a good relationship between the child and the other parent
- The reasonable preferences of the child, depending on the age of the child
- The stability of each parent’s home
- History of domestic or sexual abuse
- History of neglect
Fighting for sole custody means you must show a judge that the other parent fails to address your child’s needs. You may also demonstrate that an individual is an infit parent by presenting evidence of:
- Sexual offenses
- Emotional or physical abuse
- A history of drug and alcohol abuse in the presence of children
- Unfit, unstable, or unsanitary living conditions
- An unstable or unsafe environment for children
Do not get bogged down into a case of he-said, she-said. The court needs proof that your claims are valid and that placing a child in a joint custody situation would be to the child’s detriment. An attorney can help you gather the necessary information and evidence to present a compelling case. Police reports, restraining orders, witness statements, medical records, and electronic communications can help strengthen your position.
How Do I File for Sole Custody in Texas?
Generally, parents have two options for seeking sole custody of a child. First, when filing for divorce, you can ask the court to consider giving you sole custody of your child through a Suit Affecting the Parent-Child Relationship. SAPCR is a legal proceeding determining child custody, support, and visitation. Divorce is the process that dissolves a marriage, while SAPCR is the legal process that focuses on child-related issues.
The second way you may seek sole custody of a child is by terminating the other parent’s parental rights. Terminating parental rights is a legal process that severs the relationship between a parent and child, absolving the parents of their obligations and responsibilities. Terminating parenting rights can be challenging and is generally perceived as an extreme measure.
In Texas, if you believe that your child’s other parent is a danger to your child, you may seek to terminate their parental rights if you can demonstrate the following:
- Child abuse
- Substance abuse
- Criminal behavior or incarceration
Seeking sole custody can be an overwhelming process. An experienced Dallas child custody attorney can review your situation and evaluate which process gives you the best opportunity to gain a favorable outcome.
Contact an Experienced Dallas Child Custody Attorney Today
As a parent, your job is to keep your child safe and provide a warm, loving, and stable environment. When one parent fails to uphold their parental responsibilities or jeopardizes the health and safety of their child, seeking sole custody may be the best path forward. At Balekian Hayes, PLLC, our compassionate team wants to help you do what’s best for your family.
If you are worried about child custody arrangements, contact a sensitive Dallas child custody lawyer today to discuss the specifics of your case.