The Texas family courts like to see parents cooperate, but that isn’t always a realistic expectation in the early stages of shared custody. Divorcing and separating parents trying to establish custody arrangements often fight bitterly over access to and time with their children. If the adults cannot reach an amicable decision on their own about the division of parenting time and parental responsibilities, then they can attend a hearing where a Texas family law judge establishes a custody order for them.
A judge typically needs to consider the best interest of the children in the household when they make major decisions about custody. The following are a few of the primary factors that influence a judge’s beliefs about the best interests of the children in a family.
Their relationships with each parent
It is common for one adult in the family to serve as the primary caregiver to the children while the other may focus more on their career. Although the courts want to keep both parents involved, the relationship they have previously had with the children can influence the final breakdown of parenting time and decision-making authority.
Their health and educational needs
Children may need to regularly attend certain medical appointments, which one adult may not be able to manage because of career matters. They may also have special educational needs that can influence the best outcome during custody proceedings. Judges can even consider the living arrangements of the parents and whether the children might need to transfer to a different school based on the custody ruling for the family.
The abilities and schedules of the parents
Even someone who has previously had very little one-on-one time with the children could still request shared custody and prevail in court. Judges typically operate under the assumption that having both parents as engaged with the children as possible is the best solution.
When they make decisions regarding parenting time, they may look at the schedules for the adults and their ability to meet the needs of the children. Either parent could present evidence about concerns including substance abuse or mental health challenges that might influence how well the other can care for the children. Occasionally, the factors that lead to the courts limiting one parent’s time with their children are issues that they can address. If someone improves their circumstances, they may eventually be able to go back to the Texas family courts and ask for a modification of a current custody order.
Understanding what details influence a judge’s determination on custody matters may help people more effectively present their case in family court if they can’t agree on co-parenting terms with their child’s other parent.