In Texas, the term "conservatorship" is used rather than "custody." If you are the sole managing conservator of a child, you basically have sole custody of that child. If you and another person are joint managing conservators, you share custody of the child. The court takes many factors into account when determining who serves as a child's conservator, including the best interests of the child, the child's express wishes and whether there is a history of domestic violence. If you are wondering, "Can I get custody of my niece?" the answer is yes – but only if certain conditions apply.
Sole Managing Conservatorship Application
In Texas, an aunt or uncle may file for custody (conservatorship) if; both of the child’s parents are dead; both parents, the surviving parent or managing conservator consent to the filing; or the child’s present circumstances will significantly harm the child’s physical health or emotional development.
You can also file for custody if you have had actual care, control and possession of the child for at least six months ending not more than 90 days before the date you file the petition, or lived with the child and the child’s parent, guardian or managing conservator for at least six months ending not more than 90 days before the date you file the petition, and the child’s parent, guardian or managing conservator is now dead.
To file for custody under one of these circumstances, obtain a Petition in Suit Affecting the Parent-Child Relationship form from the clerk's office of the courthouse in the county where your niece currently lives. Include all necessary information as well as your reasons for requesting custody. Attach a case information sheet, file the paperwork with the clerk's office and pay the mandatory filing fee.
Read More: Sole Managing Conservatorship in Texas
Authorization Agreement From Parents
A less formal alternative to conservatorship is a nonparent authorization agreement. Parents may sign an Authorization Agreement for Nonparent Relative or Voluntary Caregiver form to authorize a relative or voluntary caregiver (such as an aunt or uncle) to care for and make decisions for a child. Unlike an order for conservatorship, a nonparent authorization agreement can be cancelled by the parents at any time.
An authorization agreement gives the nonparent relative or caregiver various rights, including the right to consent to medical treatment for the child, get insurance for the child, consent to extracurricular activities, apply for and receive public benefits on the child's behalf, and get copies of the child's birth certificate and social security card. The rights also include enrolling a child in school without custody in Texas.
Permanent Guardianship Forms in Texas
In Texas, guardianship almost always applies to an incapacitated adult (an adult who is unable to provide for his own food, clothing or shelter, care for his own physical health or manage his personal financial affairs due to a physical or mental condition). Instead of granting guardianship of a minor child, a parent can give a power of attorney to an aunt, uncle or other nonparent caregiver to act on behalf of the child. This may happen before or instead of a court petition for custody, depending on the circumstances of the case.
- Texas Constitution and Statutes: Family Code Title 5 Subtitle B Chapter 153 Subchapter A General Provisions
- TexasLawHelp.org: Authorization for Nonparent Care of a Child
- Texas Constitution and Statutes: Family Code Title 2 Subtitle A Chapter 34 Authorization Agreement for Nonparent Adult Caregiver
- TexasLawHelp.org: Guardianship
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