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How do Texas judges handle litigated custody cases?

On Behalf of | Mar 4, 2024 | Child Custody & Visitation

Married couples in Texas decide to divorce every day, and each divorce is a unique legal undertaking. The marital estate and family circumstances for couples can be vastly different from one household to the next. Some couples have very little difficulty handling divorce matters due to their shared goals. Other spouses may find it impossible to compromise during divorce proceedings.

Parents may feel very strongly about securing specific custody terms as part of their divorce. If they cannot reach an amicable agreement about how they share parental rights and responsibilities, then they must litigate the matter in family court. A Texas family law judge can set custody terms for parents who can’t agree. How do judges handle contested or litigated custody matters in Texas?

The law imposes very clear expectations

The most important rule for litigated custody issues is that a judge should always focus on the best interest of the children in the family. There is an assumption that helping the children maintain a relationship with both of their parents is what would generally be in their best interest.

However, judges must consider numerous factors about the family circumstances to determine the most reasonable way to divide parenting time and legal decision-making authority. Factors ranging from the relationship that both adults have with the children to their current living circumstances may influence what a judge believes might be in the best interest of the children.

There is an expectation that parents should cooperate with each other to make key decisions. They should also generally do their best to uphold the terms of the custody order to the best of their ability. If a parent proves unwilling to communicate or cooperate with their co-parent, then that could potentially affect how a judge ultimately divides parenting time and other parental responsibilities.

A 50/50 division of custody is not always the best solution, but judges typically try to keep both parents as actively involved as possible. In scenarios where a judge grants one parent far more time with or control over the children than the other, the parent with limited authority and parenting time usually has the option of seeking a modification later. If someone improves their circumstances, they can go back to family court and ask a judge to revisit the decisions about custody for their family.

Understanding how the courts handle litigated custody cases may help parents find an incentive to cooperate with each other or better prepare for their trial date.