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Filing for Full Custody

Filing for Full Custody: What You Need to Know

There are valid reasons why a parent would want to have full custody of their children. As a parent, you can file for full custody, either as part of the divorce process or by filing for a modification to the parenting plan. Regardless of when you file, you will need to overcome the policy interests baked into the law supporting both parents being a part of their children’s lives.

While each parent has custodial rights, courts also view child custody as a significant responsibility. Judges care little about a parent’s personal wishes and only consider disputes between the parents through the prism of what is best for their child or children. Judges will not award full custody to one parent just because that parent wants it more than the other.

There are two types of custody of children in Texas:

  • Legal custody (also referred to as conservatorship), by which the parents make decisions that affect their child or children; and
  • Physical custody refers to the location of the child or children and which parent they will live with primarily or otherwise

Parents with full physical custody have their child or children live with them full-time. The other parent will have visitation rights as determined by the court to be in the best interests of the child or children. It is possible for parents to share physical custody of children, even when the children have a primary residence.

Both Parents Can Usually Participate in Major Decisions Involving Their Children

The right to participate in the following types of decisions regarding one’s children is considered a basic parental right:

  • Legal
  • Health/Medical
  • Educational
  • Moral
  • Religious
  • Relationship
  • Residential

There are very few situations in which a parent would willingly give up their custody rights. Therefore, if a parent wants sole custody, they will most likely need to go to court to secure it.

Courts Want Both Parents Involved

A court will not take it lightly when one parent is seeking an arrangement that takes away the basic rights of the other parent. This remedy goes against the norm and is generally reserved for unusual cases.

The court’s presumption is that both parents should be involved in their children’s lives to the fullest extent possible. The best interests of the child or children are served when their parents are both participating in decision-making. Therefore, if you intend to file for full custody, you will need a good reason and supporting evidence to show why the court should grant it. If the other parent is opposing your effort, you must overcome the default starting position of shared custody.

Reasons Why a Court May Award Full Custody

There are valid reasons why a court would grant full custody to one parent. The first reason involves the parents’ relationship itself. When there is a history of abuse in either the relationship between the spouses or a parent’s relationship with their children, the court may decide the parent should not have a role in decision making or in their children’s lives at all.

Parents may also be at an impasse and simply not able to get along in order to co-parent. In that event, the court may decide to award full custody to one parent because decisions still need to be made for the children. If the parents cannot work together for the benefit of the children, the court may award one parent full custody.

In addition, the court will also look at the history of each parent’s relationship with the child or children prior to the filing. If one parent had little to nothing to do with the decision-making or has very little role in the children’s lives, the court may be less likely to allow them to participate through joint custody. If you intend to file for full custody, you should be prepared to explain what your role has been in your children’s lives thus far. You should also present evidence showing the other parent has not been involved. Showing a disparity of effort may not be enough, however. You will also need to show the other parent has had little involvement in your child or children’s lives.

One way parents can win full custody is by successfully terminating the other parent’s rights. Again, this should be reserved for more extreme circumstances in which a parent presents a danger to a child. However, you can also move to terminate a parent’s rights when they fail to support the child according to their ability for an extended period of time. In order to terminate another parent’s rights, you must show clear and convincing evidence that it is in the best interests of the children to do so. Terminating a parent’s rights also means that the parent no longer has to pay child support.

Prepare for an Uphill Legal Battle to Win Full Custody

Winning full custody is difficult in Texas, but not impossible. Even if you share custody with the other parent, you may still be awarded a greater role in decision-making. The court will establish a parenting plan that assigns roles and responsibilities going forward. The judge may assign certain roles to parents based on what they were doing before the divorce. In other words, if you made certain decisions largely on your own before the separation, the court may look to continue that.

The important takeaway is that not every parent who wants full custody will receive it. In fact, only a small percentage will be successful in court. However, it is not impossible to get full custody if the circumstances dictate it, and it is in the best interests of your children, but you will need to work with an experienced family lawyer to achieve this goal.

To schedule a consultation, contact us today. Our Brazoria County, Texas family law attorneys are ready to help.

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Terry & Roberts serves clients throughout Brazoria County, TX including in Angleton, Pearland, Lake Jackson, Alvin, Freeport, Clute, and Manvel.

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