Standards Observed by Austin Courts when Determining Child Conservatorship
In determining the issue of child custody during a divorce case state courts have the same primary consideration: the best interest of the child. In Title 5 Sec. 153.002 of the Texas Family Code, this same consideration is stipulated: “The best interest of the child shall always be the primary consideration of the court in determining the issues of conservatorship and possession of and access to the child.”
A child’s best interest, according to the court, however, does not mean what the child wants, it is rather what the court deems is best for him/her.
When determining conservatorship or custodianship (of a child), the overarching standards of Austin courts include: (i) assurance that the child will have frequent and continuing contact with parents who have shown the ability to act in the best interest of the child; (ii) provision of a safe, stable, and non-violent environment for the child; and, (iii) encouragement of parents to share in the rights and duties of raising their child (even after the parents have separated or have had their marriage dissolved).
Due to the fact that the issue of conservatorship, when settled in court, can be emotionally draining, besides being contentious (between the spouses) and legally complex, courts, therefore, encourage divorcing spouses to find ways that will allow them to work together in order for them to arrive at an amicable agreement regarding child custody. Failure to come to agreeable terms will result to their divorce case needing to be filed in court. If this happens, settling the conservatorship issue will be left to the family court judge whose decision on who will be the child’s custodian, will be legal and binding whether this decision is acceptable to all concerned (the spouses and the child himself/herself).
While a child, upon reaching the age of 12, can sign a “Choice of Managing Conservator” document to petition the courts to make or alter its original decision regarding conservatorship, this does not mean that the courts will grant his/her preferred living arrangements as this may be contrary to what the courts see to be in his/her best interest.