You know that divorce is imminent, and you are preparing yourself for the upcoming negotiations over property division, alimony and the like. The thing that worries you the most, however, is the idea that the court might not grant you the type of custody arrangement that you want. Knowing the types of factors that Texas divorce courts consider before making a custody determination can help you to prepare yourself for what’s to come – and may even help you prepare a solid argument to present to the court.
The court does not necessarily have to determine custody of your children. You and your spouse have the opportunity to negotiate and draft a parenting plan. If you are lucky enough to have a spouse that is willing to cooperate and negotiate in good faith with you, you may be able to come up with a plan that will be favorable to both of you.
After you establish your parenting plan, you can submit it to the court for approval. The court’s top priority will be the welfare and best interest of your children. Thus, if the judge is satisfied that your proposed parenting plan is the best thing for the child, they will likely approve and enforce it as written.
However, sometimes spouses are unable to come to an agreement concerning child custody, and the court is forced to intervene.
Factors that courts consider
Courts will always make custody decisions based on the best interest of the child, not of the parents. When determining whether to grant joint custody (known as “joint managing conservatorship” in Texas) or to grant sole conservatorship to one parent, courts consider a variety of factors.
For example, courts will consider which custody arrangement will have the best effect on the child’s physical and emotional well-being and will afford them the best opportunities, the extent to which both parents contributed to the child’s upbringing, the nature of the parents’ relationship and level of cooperation with each other, and the child’s own wishes.
Thus, the likelihood of gaining full or shared custody depends largely upon your ability to present to the court evidence that such an arrangement is in the best interest of your children. However, make sure you steer clear of any behavior that the court could construe as influencing or coercing your children to choose you over their other parent. Courts take such behavior seriously, and it can have bad consequences.
Child custody disputes are hands down the most painful part of any divorce. No matter what happens, you can rest assured that the court’s decision will be based on your child’s best interest above all else.