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Child custody is a significant concern for parents who decide to divorce. Like many states, Texas requires parents to agree on a custody arrangement that protects the child’s interests and maintains the relationship with both parents.

Before negotiating a parenting agreement with an ex-spouse, review the laws about child custody in Texas.

Terms to understand

Texas law uses the term managing conservatorship instead of legal custody, or the right to make important decisions for the child. Generally, parents have joint managing conservatorship unless such an arrangement would cause the child physical or emotional harm.

Most Texas custody orders establish primary physical residence for the child with one parent. The other parent will receive fair visitation time, either as agreed by both parents or dictated by the court if they are unable to agree. State law establishes two possible parenting schedules, known as standard and extended standard parenting time.

Factors that influence custody

When the court determines custody, the judge considers:

  • The child’s preference, if he or she is at least 12 years old
  • The child’s physical and emotional needs
  • The ability of both parents to meet the child’s needs and their history of successfully doing so
  • Whether the child is in physical or emotional danger at either parent’s residence
  • The stability of each parent’s home environment
  • The willingness of each parent to foster a healthy relationship with the child’s other parent
  • Whether the child has siblings who live with either parent
  • The distance between the parents’ residences
  • The mental and physical health of both children and the parents
  • Any history of substance abuse, neglect, abandonment or domestic violence, or history of making false allegations about these concerns
  • The child’s current adjustment to school, home, family and community

In addition to these factors, Texas courts generally find that spending time with both parents is ideal for the child’s well-being. Most judges favor an arrangement that creates stability and continuity in a child’s life. Parents should not lose the right to parenting time unless they pose a threat to the child’s health or safety.