Texas Law Regarding the Joint Custody of a Newborn

By Heather Frances J.D.

When Texas parents divorce, the court splits custody between the parents based on the best interests of the children involved. No two situations are exactly the same, and the best interests of the children can vary according to their ages. Thus, the custody arrangements created for a newborn are typically different from those created for an older child.

When Texas parents divorce, the court splits custody between the parents based on the best interests of the children involved. No two situations are exactly the same, and the best interests of the children can vary according to their ages. Thus, the custody arrangements created for a newborn are typically different from those created for an older child.

Conservatorship and Possession

Texas treats legal and physical custody separately, and either can be awarded to both parents jointly or solely to one parent. Legal custody, called conservatorship in Texas, refers to the right to make important decisions involving the child, such as whether he receives medical care and religious education. Physical custody, called possession, refers to the time the child spends with each parent. It is rare for possession to be split exactly in half, especially when the child is a newborn, because newborns typically need consistent routines. Thus, Texas courts typically award primary custody to one parent and give visitation rights to the other.

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Creating Your Own Arrangements

Texas parents can create their own arrangement of conservatorship and possession, and they can customize visitation rather than relying on a court to decide for them. Although the parent-created schedule must be approved by the court before it becomes legally binding, judges typically go with the parents' agreement. Later, after the court adopts the parents' suggested arrangement, they can modify it without the court's involvement. If the parents cannot agree to modifications later, they can return to court for the judge to rule on a modification request.

Standard Possession Order

When parents cannot reach agreement on their own, the court will establish the division of custody rights, typically as part of the divorce decree. Texas courts generally use a standard possession order, established in Texas' Family Code, to make visitation arrangements for older children as consistent as possible. While this standard order is presumed to be in a child's best interests once the child reaches age 3, courts typically do not follow the standard order for younger children. Instead, courts try to provide shorter, more frequent visits for very young children, never going any more than seven days without seeing each parent. A likely schedule for a newborn could place the child with his non-custodial parent for two hours each Tuesday and Thursday and four hours on Saturdays.

Individualized Schedule

Sometimes, a standard or presumed schedule simply does not work well for a particular family's situation, so the court will design a customized schedule for the family. For example, parents who live more than 100 miles away from each other will likely have a different visitation arrangement than those who live in the same town. Long-distance visitation for newborns can be especially difficult because of a young child's preference for routines and stability. Parents who are in the military may have a special schedule, too, since either parent could deploy overseas for several months, making traditional visitation schedules impossible. When the records show a history or evidence of family violence, Texas courts can order supervised visitation for the child to allow him to form a relationship with his parent while still ensuring his safety.

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What Are the Standard Texas Child Visitation Laws?

References

Related articles

Texas Family Laws on Child Custody & Visitation

When parents divorce in Texas, the final divorce decree must include a parenting plan for children who are under the age of 18, disabled, or still in high school. The parenting plan must indicate who is responsible for making decisions for the children regarding such issues as schooling and medical care, as well as address parenting time and child support. The Texas Family Code states that parents must provide a safe and stable environment for the children and encourages frequent contact with the children as long as the parents demonstrate the ability to act in the children's best interests.

What Is the Normal Child Visitation for Divorced Parents?

A non-residential parent can be worried and disheartened by the idea that he won't have enough time to continue to grow his relationship with his child. It helps to have a clear understanding of what normal, or standard, visitation is for divorced parents. The schedule won't be exactly the same in every state, but the guidelines are similar, and judges may deviate from the guidelines, based on the facts of your particular case.

Child Custody Alternatives

When parents divorce, the court usually must issue an order dividing custody and crafting a visitation schedule that is in the best interests of the divorcing couple's children. While only courts can issue these orders, parents can create their own custody and visitation agreements, through mediation or by themselves, and ask for court approval. If parents cannot agree, the court creates a custody and visitation structure based on state guidelines and the facts of the case.

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