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Texas Child Custody Law

This right is commonly called custody. A possessory conservator, or noncustodial parent, has the legal right to spend time with the child and know the whereabouts of the child. Many people think only fathers can be noncustodial parents, but that is not the case. In Texas, about 10 percent of noncustodial parents are mothers. Some of the information in this guide is directed toward fathers, but most of the information can apply to either a mom or dad who is the noncustodial parent.

Your case will be scheduled for a negotiation conference with the other parent in the child support office. It is best to provide the court with as much information as possible on your income so you can receive a realistic order. When you are supporting multiple children who live in different households, the guidelines are adjusted based on the number of children you are supporting.

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It is important that you let the judge or OAG staff know that you support other children. If you are employed, your employer will take child support directly out of your paycheck and send it to the State Disbursement Unit. This is the simplest and fastest way to pay child support. To pay by check or money order, send support payments to the State Disbursement Unit along with your case number.

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The primary conservator is the default, meaning the child is with them at all times not reserved for the other party in the Standard Possession Order; 2. For example, when the parents live close to each other, the dad for illustration purposes can attend parent-teacher conferences at school, can coach the child's soccer team, can volunteer at the child's school, can have lunch with the child on a weekday, can get to know the child's teachers and friends, and not be considered an outsider or an uninvolved parent. The way this usually happens is that the parent who wants the child's wishes to be considered files a request with the court for the judge to interview the child in chambers. Other rights have various options, such as the right to consent to your child joining the military when they turn 17 years old. Click here for a full listing of offices nationwide.

View your payment history on the OAG website www. The custodial parent must cooperate with the OAG to establish paternity and set child support. Federal law does not allow the OAG to enforce a parent's visitation rights. However, there are resources that the OAG provides to help parents who have trouble seeing their children. For help with custody or visitation issues, call the Access and Visitation Hotline at Paternity means legal fatherhood. It creates ties between the child and the father, both emotionally and legally. In Texas, an unmarried father is not automatically recognized as the legal father.

Parents who are not married when a baby is born must establish paternity for their child to have a legal father. There are two ways for unmarried parents to establish paternity: 1 sign a legal document called an Acknowledgment of Paternity, or 2 get a court order. When a baby is born to married parents, legal fatherhood is automatic. The husband of the woman giving birth is called the presumed father. The presumed father automatically has the same legal rights as the mother.

Paternity creates a legal connection between the child and the father. Dad, Mom and their child benefit when paternity is established. The court can also set child support, medical support, custody and visitation whether or not you are actually present. If you cannot appear in court, contact the court or child support office handling your case and ask how to file a response with the court.

That is not true. The court can make a paternity decision without a genetic DNA test. Texas law requires unmarried fathers to act very quickly to avoid losing their parental rights. A father can register before the baby is born but no later than 31 days after the birth of the child. There is no charge for registering with the Paternity Registry. For more information, call Paternity Registry at extension If you cannot appear in court at the designated time, contact the court or child support office handling your case and ask how to file a response with the court.

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What if I pay for things that my child needs, such as diapers, instead of paying the money through the child support agency? You are helping to support your child, but the court may see things differently. It is unlikely that a court will consider these direct payments as payment of child support. The court will likely consider what you give to the other parent to be a gift to the child. In legal terms, custody is called conservatorship and visitation is referred to as periods of possession. In most cases, the court grants these rights and duties to both parents, as long as it is in the best interest of the child.

For example, if the child is very young under 3 years old or if the noncustodial parent has had very little or no previous contact with the child, the court may order a Modified Possession Order, which starts off with shorter visits that become progressively longer until the Standard Possession Order is reached.

Once again, the court is making decisions based on what is best for the child. Texas law contains guidelines that help judges make their decisions. Here are some things the court may consider when deciding what is best for the child:.

The court has legal authority to issue a child support order even if you are not actually present. If your current or past income is not known, the support order may be based on your working 40 hours per week at a job that pays minimum wage. Yes — because you are still legally responsible for paying child support until the child support order has been modified. However, when circumstances change, you can modify your child support order.

How Custody is Determined in Texas Divorce

For more information contact your local child support office. During a court hearing, you may ask the court to modify the child support order. To do this, you must present evidence showing that the new amount is in the best interest of the child. The court may or may not choose to order a new amount. If both parents agree on a new amount, they may file a written agreement with the court. The court reviews the agreement to see if it serves the best interests of your child.

If the court agrees with the new amount, it will be entered in the order. If you and the other parent had private attorneys, your court order or divorce decree may require support to continue until the child graduates from college. Get a copy of your court order and check the details. Medical support and child support are separate obligations the court may require of either or both parents.

A. Conservatorship

Get family law help and assistance in Texas; divorce, custody, child support, visitation, parental rights, adoption, or kinship placement, Want to know more about child custody law in Texas? Prior to , the status of the law was that when parent divorced, one parent (generally the mom) was.

If the custodial parent is required to provide health insurance coverage, the court will order the noncustodial to pay additional support in the form of cash medical support. If your income changes and you are unable to pay your child support, notify the OAG and the court immediately. However, simply telling the court clerk or contacting your OAG child support office is not sufficient to reduce the amount of your child support payment.


Your monthly child support obligation will only change if you obtain a new support order. You may qualify for a modification of your child support order if there has been a substantial change in circumstances major change in your life that affects your ability to pay child support or:.

If you seek to modify your child support because of unemployment, the court may order you to show that you are looking for a job or participating in an employment training program such as those offered by the Texas Workforce Commission. Many noncustodial parents believe that having a serious reason for falling behind on their child support payments will allow the court to dismiss their past-due support, once they explain what happened. This is not true. If a major life event affects your ability to pay child support, notify the court and the child support office immediately.

Do not wait to explain your changed circumstances, because the court will not reduce or reimburse past-due child support payments.

Yes, the Texas Workforce Commission provides skills training and job placement services. At your request, the child support agency can also refer you to education and literacy classes as well as counseling services for substance abuse and parenting skills. You must pay your court-ordered child support regardless of whether you have access to your child for visitation. If you need assistance seeing your child, contact the Texas Access and Visitation Hotline , Monday - Friday, 1—7 p.

Legally, child support and visitation are separate issues. This means you have the right to see your child even if you are not paying child support.

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At the same time, if you are not seeing your child, you must continue to pay child support. Both parents must obey the court order. The custodial parent must let you spend time with your child, just like you must pay child support every month in full. The Attorney General's Office only has legal authority to enforce the child support order.

You may be placed in jail for up to six months for not paying child support. Under Texas law, the reason for placing a noncustodial parent in jail is contempt of court. Contempt of court means you are not following a court order. You have the right to be represented by an attorney throughout a contempt proceeding. You have the right for the government to provide you with an attorney at no charge if the following conditions apply:.

In some cases, noncustodial parents who do not pay child support can go to prison for a specific amount of time or until a fine is paid. This happens when someone is criminally prosecuted and convicted of a felony. Box Austin, TX Call or visit www. Child Support Interactive. Handbook for Non-Custodial Parents Introduction The purpose of this handbook is to inform noncustodial parents about paternity establishment and child support services.

What is a noncustodial parent? Unmarried couples can establish paternity by signing a legal document called an Acknowledgment of Paternity AOP or by petitioning the court. Therefore, joint managing conservatorship is often granted where both parents equally share in making the child's legal decisions but the child predominantly lives with one parent. In Texas the court presumes that it is in the best interest of the child for the parents to be given joint managing conservatorship.

To determine the appropriate conservatorship of the child the court will use the "best interests of the child" standard. In some cases, a third party, or someone other than a child's biological parents, tries to gain custody of a child. If one or more of the parents are deceased, the closest living relative may file a custody suit.

A person who has been in the possession of a child for a period of at least six months may also have legal rights to the child and may file a child custody suit. Grandparents have legal rights to their grandchildren when the parents are deceased. If both parents are deceased, then a grandparent may be able to take legal custody of a child.