Child Custody

Child custody in Texas termination of parent's rights

Houston Child Custody Attorney.

Child custody is called conservatorship in Texas.

The word ‘custody’ means care, control, and maintenance. The judge appoints a guardian or protector to manage the financial affairs and daily life of another person.


Petitioner is the person who files for child custody. The Petitioner must file in a court that has authority to render a judgment over the issues. A “Respondent” is the person who responds.

In Texas, petitioner has to file a request for custody in the county where the child has resided for 6 months. If there is an Order already in a certain court, then the request to modify or change custody must be filed in the county where the previous Order is. There are very limited exceptions.

A court can dismiss a suit for custody (and any other suit) if it does not have the authority to hear the case.

Rights and Duties in Custody Cases

  1. Designate the primary residence of the child;
  2. Consent to medical, dental, and surgical treatment involving invasive procedures;
  3. Consent to psychiatric and psychological treatment;
  4. Receive and give receipt for periodic payments for the support of the child and to hold or disburse these funds for the benefit of the child;
  5. Represent the child in legal action and to make other decisions of substantial legal significance concerning the child;
  6. Consent to marriage and to enlistment in the armed forces of the United States;
  7. Make decisions concerning the child’s education;
  8. Right to the services and earnings of the child; and
  9. The right to act as an agent of the child in relation to the child’s estate…; this is except when a guardian of the child’s estate or a guardian or attorney ad litem has been appointed for the child.

Types of Custody

There are two types of Custody in Texas Family Code: Joint Custody and Sole Custody.

First, let’s talk about Joint Custody. This type of custody is Joint Managing Conservatorship in Texas. As joint custodial parents, the rights noted above are awarded to both parents. However, please note that these rights are divided into physical and legal rights. The parent with physical custody has the right to designate the child’s physical residence.

It is generally understood that physical custody is about residence. That is, the child lives with the parent who has physical custody. The less recognized custody is “Legal custody”.  So, what is legal custody?

Legal Custody

Legal custody addresses who makes the major decisions. These include child’s religious training or education, extra-curricular activities, school, healthcare, and more. Moreover, the parent who has  joint legal custody is in “contempt” of court if he refuses to allow the other parent to participate in the decision-making process.

On the other hand, single custody is where the rights above are awarded to one parent only. This parent decides major changes, and he or she is not required to inform the other parent. However, the other parent may still have visitation rights, including supervised visits.


To modify the parent-child relationship, there must be a material and substantial change.

Under Texas Family Code 156.101,

a) The court may modify an order that provides for the appointment of a conservator of a child, that provides the terms and conditions of conservatorship, or that provides for the possession of or access to a child if modification would be in the best interest of the child and:

(1) the circumstances of the child, a conservator, or other party affected by the order have materially and substantially changed since the earlier of:

(A) the date of the rendition of the order;  or

(B) the date of the signing of a mediated or collaborative law settlement agreement on which the order is based;

(2) the child is at least 12 years of age and has expressed to the court in chambers as provided by Section 153.009 the name of the person who is the child’s preference to have the exclusive right to designate the primary residence of the child;  or

(3) the conservator who has the exclusive right to designate the primary residence of the child has voluntarily relinquished the primary care and possession of the child to another person for at least six months.

(b) Subsection (a)(3) does not apply to a conservator who has the exclusive right to designate the primary residence of the child and who has temporarily relinquished the primary care and possession of the child to another person during the conservator’s military deployment, military mobilization, or temporary military duty, as those terms are defined by Section 153.701 .

In In the Interest of E.A.D.P., J.T.C.P. and C.E.P., children, a case in Dallas, the court explains factors that count as material change.

  • It held that:

“Therefore, modification involves changes that affect a child’s physical, emotion, and mental well-being.  If it affects the child significantly, it may be a ‘significant’ change; however, you have the responsibility of proving its importance to a judge.”

Modification of child support is similar, but the basis or factors of ‘material change’ is different. These are factors that affect a non-custodial parent’s ability to financially support the child.

Child custody terminates when:

  • the child is 18 years old or;
  • the child graduates from high school – whichever is later;
  • child emancipates or;
  • The child joins the military.

This rule is different where the child is disabled.

Our attorneys will assist with filing for conservatorship. If there is a previous order and there is a material change, contact us our office for a free case evaluation. (832) 529-1255.