Child Custody

How Does a Court Decide Child Custody?

Child Custody | Divorce | Family Law

When it involves children, one of the most stressful aspects of divorce is child custody. When it comes to determining custody, there are several factors that are taken into consideration in order to make the decision that is most appropriate in each situation.

Child-Specific Issues

When a child has special needs, these will be taken into consideration by the court when assigning custody so that the best possible care can be provided. Here are a few of the special needs that are recognized by Texas courts:

  • Physical handicap
  • Mental disorders
  • Behavioral problems
  • Learning disabilities

Parental Capacity

Under Texas law, favor is given to the parent who is best able to show that he or she can give priority to the child’s welfare over everything else. This includes meeting the physical, mental and emotional needs of the child as well as having the capacity to make decisions that are in the best interests of the child. The following are some of the factors that could be used to show that a parent is not culpable:

  • History of abuse or neglect
  • Current substance abuse
  • Abandonment
  • Mental illness
  • Prior criminal history

Other Factors

A number of other factors come into play when determining which parent should have custody. Texas courts also examine issues like:

  • Age of a child
  • Whether there are siblings from another marriage
  • Whether both parents participated in child-rearing prior to separation
  • Relationship between the parties
  • Geographic location of parents and extended family members
  • Preference of the child if he or she is at least 14 years of age

It is important to note that when considering the child’s preference, courts will also try to determine whether this choice has been unduly influenced. The older a child is, the more likely the court is to give merit to individual preferences.

Parental Agreement

Parents are encouraged to agree on custody and visitation matters whenever possible. Even so, if the court feels the agreement reached by the parents does not operate in the best interest of the child, it can deny the petition. In most cases, a judge will ask parents to renegotiate between themselves and come to a more suitable agreement. If this is not possible, the court will hear oral arguments from both parents and render a decision.

Custody is a complicated matter no matter what the child’s age is. Those who have concerns about how child custody issues will be handled should seek legal advice from Houston divorce attorney Mario Madrid at 713-877-9400.