Most fathers love their children, and if you’re a father looking at a divorce, you likely want to remain as much a part of your kids’ lives as possible. You may also worry that the deck is stacked against you. But even though it may seem as though custody favors mothers, that’s not what Texas law says.
Instead, the truth is that Texas law favors shared custody, which it calls “joint conservatorship.” Unless there’s reason to change things, the courts expect each parent should become a joint managing conservator. That means each parent shares certain rights and responsibilities, but it does not mean you will split the time with your children equally.
Here’s how the law views your parenting time
Texas law says that it is a “rebuttable presumption” that divorcing parents should maintain joint managing conservatorship. You might think of this as joint custody. With few exceptions, the court expects you and your ex to continue raising your children as a team.
The courts can adjust the rights and responsibilities included, but this typically means you have:
- All the standard parental rights to information about your children
- The right to provide religious or spiritual guidance while your children are with you
- The right to consent to non-invasive medical and dental procedures
- A duty to provide for, care for and discipline your children
What join conservatorship doesn’t guarantee is your parenting time. The reality is that school-age children need stability and security, including a primary residence near their school. Accordingly, the courts may recognize one parent as the primary or “managing” conservator and the other as a “possessory” conservator.
If you can’t arrange an alternate parenting schedule, the court may then assign your time according to a standard parenting schedule. If you’re the possessory conservator, this could mean you would have your children:
- Every odd-numbered weekend
- Over an alternating set of holidays
- Spring breaks every other year
- For 30 days over the summer
If that doesn’t sound like enough time to see your children and help raise them, then you may want to rethink your options.
What are a father’s options?
The first thing to know is that while the courts begin with the “rebuttable presumption” that joint custody is best for your children, the law makes exceptions for cases that involve violence or abuse. This leads some people to lie, claiming they were victimized or the children were abused. If you want time with your children, it’s vitally important you respond to such claims quickly and the right way.
Even without such claims, fathers often face a tougher path to parenting time than the law suggests. Only one parent’s home can serve as the children’s primary address. To decide on a primary managing conservator, the court reviews your children’s best interests. This means each parent’s ability:
- To meet your children’s physical, mental and emotional needs
- To put your children’s interests first
- To cooperate with the other parent
- To provide a stable home
It also means looking at the role each parent played in raising the children so far.
It is undeniable that fathers play an important role in their children’s lives. The statistics bear this out. They show that fatherless children tend to live harder lives. But it’s often hard for fathers to show the courts how deeply they have been involved in their children’s lives. This makes it more important for fathers to:
- Negotiate a parenting plan through mediation or arrange a parenting plan through some other alternative method of dispute resolution outside of the court
- Head to court well-armed with a strategy, expert opinions and solid evidence to support the value of the time they spend with their children
In either situation, thorough preparation is the key.
Play on an even field
When it comes to winning time with your children, there’s the law and the way people use it. The law says gender doesn’t factor into custody or parenting time. However, that’s not the way it always looks on the ground level. Fathers want to understand the law and their rights, and they want to work extra hard building their case as parents.