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Common Questions about Child Custody

Authored By: Texas RioGrande Legal Aid - Austin LSC Funded


What is custody in Texas?

Custody in Texas is called "conservatorship." There are two kinds of conservatorship: joint managing conservatorship; and sole managing conservatorship. But, this isn't like "joint custody" or "sole custody," as most people think of it.

The main thing in Texas is which parent gets what rights to the children. The most important right (most parents think) is who gets to decide where the children live. This is called the right to "determine primary residence." Usually, the parent who has this right decides that the children will live with him or her.

In a joint managing conservatorship, either parent could get this right. But, they cannot share the right to decide where the kids will live. In a sole managing conservatorship, the sole managing conservator gets this right.

What am I called if I am the parent who gets to visit with my kids?

Just like custody is called "conservatorship," visitation is called "possession." The parent who gets to visit is sometimes called the "possessory conservator." Texas has tried to create a standard visitation order that comes really close to splitting the time that the kids have with the parents equally.

What rights do I have as a parent?

There are other rights and duties that parents have that the court splits up, or shares, between the parents. These include:

  • the right to have physical possession, to direct the moral and religious training, and to establish the residence of the child;
  • the duty of care, control, protection, and reasonable discipline of the child;
  • the duty to support the child, including providing the child with clothing, food, shelter, medical and dental care, and education;
  • the duty, except when a guardian of the child's estate has been appointed, to manage the estate of the child, including the right as an agent of the child to act in relation to the child's estate if the child's action is required by a state, the United States, or a foreign government;
  • except as provided by Section 264.0111, the right to the services and earnings of the child;
  • the right to consent to the child's marriage, enlistment in the armed forces of the United States, medical and dental care, and psychiatric, psychological, and surgical treatment;
  • the right to represent the child in legal action and to make other decisions of substantial legal significance concerning the child;
  • the right to receive and give receipt for payments for the support of the child and to hold or disburse funds for the benefit of the child;
  • the right to inherit from and through the child;
  • the right to make decisions concerning the child's education

What about child support?

When a court makes a decision about child custody, it almost always orders child support to be paid by the parent that the children don't live with (this person is called the "non-custodial parent"). Child support usually has to be paid until the child reaches 18 years old. If a child is disabled, child support can be ordered to be paid indefinitely.

There is a standard amount of child support that usually has to be paid. If there are no other children that the paying parent has to pay child support for, child support is in the following percentages:

  • 1 child, 20% of net income
  • 2 children, 25% of net income
  • 3 children, 30% of net income
  • 4 children, 35% of net income
  • 5 children, 40 % of net income
  • 6+ children, Not less than the amount for 5 children

These amounts are "guidelines." If there is a good reason to pay another amount (either more or less), the court will consider it.