- February 8
- Evans & Herlihy
- Family Law
When a loving family member discovers the other parent is not acting in their child’s best interest, that can be a heart-wrenching moment. But that’s also the time to take action and protect your innocent child and prevent any physical or emotional harm from occurring. As an experienced child custody law firm, we know that how to file for sole custody in Texas is not particularly difficult. But winning a sole custody case requires determination and family court experience. If you are considering how to get full custody of a child in Texas, this is what you need to know.
What is Sole Custody?
When a parent assumes sole custody of a child, they possess exclusive rights. The sole custody designation generally means that one parent enjoys physical placement as well as decision-making powers. The non-custodial parent typically holds no placement or decision-making rights in these situations. Gaining sole custody usually gives a parent the following.
- Right to decide invasive medical, dental, and surgical treatments
- Right to decide whether a child requires psychiatric and psychological care
- Right to make decisions concerning a child’s education.
In essence, the parent with sole custody usually makes the day-to-day and pivotal life decisions regarding the health and welfare of the child. The court may include limited visitation opportunities with specific guidelines, in some cases, for non-custodial parents. In sole custody situations, it’s not uncommon for non-custodial parent visits to be supervised. That’s largely because these decrees are the result of one parent’s abdicating responsibility or being deemed unfit, for wide-reaching reasons.
How to Get Full Custody of a Child in Texas
In order to earn court approval for sole custody, a responsible parent must effectively terminate the other’s rights. The decision to move forward and terminate the unfit parent’s rights should not be taken lightly. Sole custody means shouldering all the work of raising a child. In some cases, gaining sole custody could result in losing financial support from the irresponsible parent. These are commonly cited reasons, based on abandonment, to ask the family court to award sole custody:
- The child was left with an individual with the intention of not returning the minor to a parent.
- Leaving a child with someone away from the other parent for a minimum of three months without expressing an intent to return and without providing support.
- Leaving a child with another and not providing adequate support for six months or longer.
- Knowingly abandoning an expectant mother during pregnancy or following the child’s birth.
Abandonment remains a driving reason for responsible parents to seek sole custody. These can prove challenging when the other party is difficult or impossible to serve with a court filing. An experienced child custody lawyer can remedy this hurdle.
While serving an absent parent requires some legal acumen, some unfit parents can pose a clear and present danger to young children. These rank among the unfortunate reasons it may be necessary to terminate someone’s parental rights:
- Unfit parent was convicted of murder or another violent felony
- Placed the minor in an environment that endangered the child’s physical or emotional health
- Gave birth to a drug-addicted child by misusing controlled substances
- Engaged in conduct that endangered the child’s physical or emotional wellbeing
- Did not provide material support of the child based on ability
- Knowingly misused a controlled substance in the presence of the child
- Failed to abide by court-ordered substance abuse treatment program.
Struggling with an absentee or unfit parent may not necessarily lead to a sole custody ruling. A responsible parent who wants to do what’s best and right is tasked with persuading the court to use its discretion.
How Does Family Court Decide Sole Custody in Texas?
It’s essential to understand that the opinion of one parent may not be adopted by the Texas family court. Sole, joint, and other subsets of parental arrangements are based on the child’s best interests. The court generally considers the following issues when deciding physical placement and custody cases.
- Wishes of the child
- Child’s present emotional and physical needs
- Child’s future physical and emotional needs
- Any present or anticipated dangers to the child
- Parental abilities of both parents
- Stability of each home
- Support programs available to help each parent further the child’s best interests
- Analysis of parental plans presented to the court
- Fact-based reasons or omissions that indicate a parent may be unfit
- Explanations of any acts or omissions that point to unfitness.
When one parent resists the sole custody process, the family court litigation can become contentious. That’s why responsible parents are wise to consider working with an experienced sole custody lawyer in Texas who can present a powerful case on your behalf.
How to File for Sole Custody in Texas
Knowing how to file for sole custody in Texas does not necessarily require a law degree. Getting a positive ruling from the court may be an entirely different matter. Perhaps the best approach involves enlisting an experienced child custody lawyer and working through the following steps.
- File Paperwork: When seeking sole custody, a parent must open a case that changes the suit affecting parent-child relationship (SAPCR) or changes a divorce decree. Most divorce cases include a SAPCR when minor children are involved.
- Restraining Orders: If the unfit parent has a history of violence, substance abuse, or has made material threats, speak with your attorney about securing a temporary restraining order until the case is resolved. You may ask the court to extend the order or make it permanent at a later date.
- State Services: If you or your child receives Medicaid, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, or a food stamp program, you may need to notify the attorney general’s office. This step helps ensure any temporary or necessary ongoing support is in place.
- Serve the Other Party: The other parent can be served through a law enforcement official such as a constable, sheriff, or a private resource. A hearing cannot effectively move forward until the other party has been served. If the other party cannot be found or served for a specific reason, your attorney can petition the court for alternative service.
- Gather Documents: Persuading the courts to give you sole custody requires significant evidence this serves the child’s interests. Documentation that demonstrates the other party’s track record of unfitness is part of the equation. It’s also prudent to show the court why you can provide a safe, secure home life where the child can flourish.
During a family court hearing, both sides will have an opportunity to make their case. If you firmly believe your child’s safety, health, and emotional wellbeing are furthered by your taking sole custody, it’s crucial to have a skilled child custody lawyer make a case on your behalf.
Contact An Experienced Child Custody Lawyer in Texas
Nothing is more important than the health and welfare of your child. If the other parent demonstrates they are unfit to safely and responsibly care for the child, it’s essential to take protective legal measures. At Evans & Herlihy, we work with responsible community members to secure sole custody arrangements. If you are considering a custody change, call our legal team at (512) 732-2727 to schedule a no-cost consultation today.