What Is the Law in Texas for Custody of Minor Children in a Marriage?

By Cindy Chung
Texas divorce laws determine married parents' custodial rights.

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Under Texas law, the marital status of parents can affect their child's birth certificate and the father's paternity rights. Texas law also outlines specific rights and procedures for married parents in the event of their divorce. When spouses divorce and their marriage resulted in children, their divorce proceedings will include child-related legal issues, such as child custody and visitation, for which Texas law uses the terms of "conservatorship" and "possession."

Names on Birth Certificate

Under the paternity laws of Texas, a father automatically has legal rights as a parent when his wife gives birth to a child. The child's birth certificate will reflect the husband's legal rights as a parent through inclusion of his name as the child's father. In contrast, the birth certificate of a child born outside of a legal marriage will not include the father's name unless the parents sign a paternity acknowledgment. Alternatively, one of the parents may later get a court order stating the child's paternity, which will allow for amendment of the child's birth certificate to include the father's name. As such, parents who would like their child's birth certificate to reflect both legal parents' names may wish to consider marriage before the child's birth.

Paternity Rights of Married Fathers

A husband who has established paternity rights can later petition a Texas court for child custody in the event of the parents' divorce. Additionally, the legal father's wife or the Texas child support agency may be able to initiate child-support proceedings against him, regardless of whether he has custody of the child. In contrast, a father of a child born outside of a legal marriage must establish his paternity under Texas law before he can ask a state court for a conservatorship or possession rights.

Jurisdiction of Divorce Court

When parents choose to divorce, their divorce proceedings will include a determination of conservatorship, also known as child custody. The Texas court overseeing the couple's divorce case also will have jurisdiction over custody issues related to the minor children born from the couple's marriage. Even after the court has finalized the couple's divorce, the court will continue to have jurisdiction over ongoing child-related legal issues, such as modification of the parents' conservatorship rights or payment of child support by one parent to the other. The court will maintain jurisdiction over the family's case during the child's minority until the age of 18 or until the child becomes a high school graduate, depending on which event occurs on a later date.

Custody Arrangements After Divorce

Married parents may request a variety of conservatorship arrangements under Texas law, but the state courts generally award joint managing conservatorship, also known as joint legal custody, of children from the divorcing couple's marriage. Joint managing conservatorship allows former spouses to share parental decision-making rights. However, only one conservator, also known as the custodial parent, will receive the right to provide the child's primary residence. The parent-conservator who does not provide the primary residence for the child will receive possession rights, also known as visitation, according to Texas law. As part of their divorce, the former spouses will receive a court order explaining each parent's conservatorship and possession rights.

About the Author

Cindy Chung is a California-based professional writer. She writes for various websites on legal topics and other areas of interest. She holds a B.A. in education and a Juris Doctor.

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