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When you are a parent and decide to divorce, your biggest concern is your children. You’re worried not only on your divorce will impact them, but if you’ll have to share custody with your ex. Can you get sole custody? And if not, how does the court decide how much custody time you’ll receive?

You first need to understand that Texas would like you and your spouse to work out your custody agreement on your own. The state will assume you and your ex will share joint custody, or a joint managing conservatorship (JMC) unless you decide to seek sole custody (or sole managing conservatorship). If you and your spouse can’t agree to a custody agreement, a family law judge will have to decide custody based on what’s in your child’s best interests.

What are the “best interests of the child”?

When evaluating what is in the best interests of your child, the court looks at the following:

  1. The age and gender of the child.
  2. How sharing custody might impact the child’s schooling or community adjustments
  3. The mental and physical health of each parent
  4. If the child has special needs that one parent has taken care of
  5. How stable an environment each parent can provide
  6. How a custody agreement will impact the child’s relationships with extended family members

What to know about sole custody

In Texas, a court might grant sole custody, or sole managing conservatorship, to one parent for a child in the following circumstances:

  • If other parent has a history of family violence or neglect
  • If the other parent hasn’t been present in the child’s life
  • If the other parent has a history of criminal activity, drug use or alcohol abuse
  • If the child’s parents have severe disagreements over a child’s education, medical care or religious values

Even if one parent receives sole custody, the other parent may receive visitation or supervised visitation if the court feels it is in the child’s best interest.

Coming to a child custody agreement often is an emotionally charged negotiation. Having a trusted family law attorney work with you to craft a custody agreement that works is very helpful. An attorney also can advise you if circumstances might warrant you to seek sole custody for your child.