There’s a widely held belief in Texas that mothers are always awarded legal custody of their children during a divorce. This may have been the case several years ago when state law reflected an older family framework. Now that the mother isn’t the primary caretaker in all families, the law looks at things differently.
The law recognizes that mothers and fathers play an equally important role in the raising of their children. As a result, both parents theoretically have the same chance of being awarded custody rights. The court will ultimately rule on custody and parenting time based on what’s in the best interest of the children.
At Sabelhaus + Lynch, our award-winning family lawyers have seen many fathers get awarded full custody or joint legal custody. We’ve also provided legal services to countless mothers and other family members looking to secure or retain custodial rights. No one wants the heartache of a mother losing custody of a child.
As the principle of parental equality becomes more widely accepted in Texas, the trend of fathers getting sole legal custody will continue. Whether or not a parent loses their case could come down to the quality of their attorney.
If you’re a mother who fears losing custody of your child or children, don’t take winning your case for granted. Our experienced Fort Worth law firm will help you prepare the best legal strategy so that you can hold onto your most prized possessions: your children.
3 Different Types of Conservatorship
In Texas, the legal term for custody is “conservatorship.” As such, you may see both words used throughout this article and other recent posts by S + L. The rights of parents who aren’t married fall into one of these 3 conservatorship buckets, as defined by state law.
Failure to comply with the terms of your agreement can result in your rights being reduced or terminated. It can even result in you losing parenting time or, worse, physical custody.
These are the 3 types of conservatorships in Texas.
Joint Managing Conservatorship
In a joint managing conservatorship, also known as joint custody, both parents can make important decisions about the child. This does not mean, however, that the mother and father share parenting time. Visitation schedules and the amount of parenting time each party receives will be determined by a possession order.
Judges prefer a co-parenting arrangement versus giving one parent sole physical custody. This is because having access to both parents is generally in the best interest of the child.
Sole Managing Conservatorship
In cases where it’s deemed necessary by the court, one parent can be named Sole Managing Conservator. This parent will have sole physical custody of the child or children, and the exclusive right to make most decisions.
Texas law prefers that parents are named Joint Managing Conservators and therefore share custody. However, the court may name one parent Sole Managing Conservator if the co-parent has a history of the following:
- Family violence
- Child abuse
- Sexual abuse
- Physical abuse
- Child neglect or absence
- Alcohol or drug abuse
- Child abduction
- Parental alienation
In cases where one parent is named the Sole Managing Conservator, the other is usually named the Possessory Conservator. If a nonparent is named the Sole Managing Conservator, both parents will generally be named Possessory Conservators. A Possessory Conservator still has the rights of a parent, but won’t have the last say on most choices.
Can I Lose Custody of My Children?
When entering a custody battle, the first thing to do is educate yourself about some of the most common reasons mothers lose their custodial privileges. Violating even one of these infractions will give your ex-spouse grounds to mount a legal challenge.
Even if a case can be reasonably made against you, though, it doesn’t mean you’re going to lose custody. Similarly, just because you’re not guilty of any of these violations doesn’t mean you’re automatically going to win your child custody case.
The court recognizes the seriousness of child custody. Therefore, it will consider context and testimony from both sides when rendering a decision. This is why it’s essential to hire a Tarrant County child custody attorney. We will aggressively defend your rights as a mother and provide you with the best legal advice for your case.
Here are 8 of the most common reasons a parent, specifically a Texas mother, could lose custody of a child.
Reason 1: Lose Custody Due To Domestic Violence
It may surprise you to learn that more than 1 in 4 men in the U.S. experience some form of physical or sexual violence by an intimate partner, according to the National Domestic Violence Hotline. If you have inflicted any sort of domestic violence against someone in your family, your spouse can press charges.
At that point, the husband can request an investigation of his claims, and petition to be recognized as the sole managing conservator of your children. This would make the father the custodial parent and give him the exclusive right to make most parenting decisions. His home would also become the children’s primary residence.
Not surprisingly, the court has little tolerance when it comes to child abuse. Charges of physical abuse of any kind reflect poorly upon the mother. They can also be difficult to overcome in family court, especially if the father has filed a restraining order. If this occurs, the mother’s only access to her children may be through monitored visitation sessions.
Reason 2: Lose Custody Due To Emotional Abuse
While emotional abuse is often more difficult to prove in court, it can be just as damaging for the mother. The court takes seriously the emotional health and well-being of children. If it’s suspected that the mother has inflicted emotional damage on her kids, it might result in loss of custody.
While many people associate emotional abuse with harassment and verbal attacks, the definition is much broader. The court also considers acts of manipulation, such as turning their child or children against their co-parent, as emotional abuse. The judge may view this type of treatment even more harshly if the child is young and easier to manipulate.
In summary, any form of child abuse, whether it’s emotional or physical, will be taken very seriously by the court. It’s why they are among the top reasons you could lose custody of a child.
Reason 3: Lose Custody Due To Neglect
If the mother consistently fails to tend to her children’s basic needs, a case of neglect can be made. Proving neglect can be difficult because it often depends on testimony from others who have seen it take place.
If you’re a mother, it’s important to remember that neglect is a pattern, not a one-off lapse in judgment or memory. The judge is highly unlikely to take away your parenting rights for forgetting to pick up your child or children from soccer practice that one time. There must be a repeated history of neglectful behavior that puts the child’s physical or emotional health at risk.
When defending a charge of neglect, or parental alienation, character witnesses can be very valuable. They can speak to your character and help you combat claims that you’ve been shirking your duties. These individuals may need to testify under oath, so it’s important to find people you really trust.
Reason 4: Lose Custody Due To Violation of Custody Order
Violating any custody order is grounds for the termination of custodial rights. For example, let’s say you take your child or children on a surprise vacation the weekend your ex-spouse is scheduled to be with them. Your ex-spouse can file a complaint to the court. This could result in a court order modification and possibly the termination of your custodial rights.
While your custody order must be honored, you can always petition for a court order modification. If you and your ex-spouse agree to the change, the modification process can be quite simple. If you do not agree, you’ll need to prove there has been a “material and substantial change in circumstances.”
An experienced Fort Worth family law attorney from S + L can help you modify your court order as desired. But be sure not to violate your existing order until the changes are official. Otherwise, it could impact your child custody rights.
Reason 5: Lose Custody Due To Poor Co-Parenting
If your child or children are suffering while in your possession, the father can petition to have your custodial rights terminated. Especially if the suffering is due to neglect, alienation, or lack of structure in the home. For the father to effectively make this case, he’ll need to prove the children are struggling as a result of the environment you have created. A Tarrant County family lawyer from S + L can help defend you from these assertions.
Reason 6: Lose Custody Due To Failure To Support Other Parent
In most divorces, the court makes each parent a “joint managing conservator.” In this arrangement, each parent may share possession time and decision-making about most issues related to the child or children. The family courts prefer this arrangement because it doesn’t cut off the child’s access to one of their parents. But it only works if each parent sticks to the plan and puts forth an effort to support each other.
If you are unsupportive, uncooperative, or hostile toward the other parent, it won’t be viewed favorably by a judge. From texts to social media posts, it’s easier than ever to prove a parent is acting in bad faith. Anything you publish that demonstrates contempt or disregard for your co-parent can be used against you. It can even result in you losing custody of your child.
Reason 7: Lose Custody Due To Bad Behavior
Public displays of bad behavior and emotional recklessness can result in your legal custody being reduced or eliminated. For example, getting into a public fight with a bartender can hurt you in family court. Especially if you have a history of erratic decision-making.
While it’s unlikely that one incident will result in something as serious as custody loss, crazier things have happened. If you’re concerned that a recent indiscretion could jeopardize your parenting rights, our award-winning Near Southside family law attorneys can provide legal advice and services to help you navigate the situation.
Reason 8: Lose Custody Due To Substance Abuse
It should come as no surprise that the court will consider a parent’s history of substance abuse when awarding conservatorship. Abusing any substance, even cigarettes or alcohol, can result in you being characterized as an “unsafe” or “unfit” parent. This can tip the scales in the favor of the other parent competing for sole legal custody.
Of course, context matters here. For example, smoking a cigarette outside after your child goes to sleep is not the same as chain-smoking in the car with your child in the backseat.
The judge will also consider the context when reviewing any history you may have with substances. If you were arrested for driving while intoxicated once in college, the judge may not place much emphasis on it. But if you have used hard drugs like heroin since becoming a mother, that’s a different story. It will be hard for the judge to ignore that when awarding or ruling on custody.
Depending on the nature of the situation, substance abuse could result in the judge awarding conservatorship to your ex-spouse. Especially if your addiction or repeated history of substance abuse puts your children in danger.
Contact Our Experienced Fort Worth Divorce Attorneys
Any challenge to your custodial rights is something to take seriously. We’ve seen many parents lose their legal custody rights when it could have been avoided with more preparation. Our award-winning Fort Worth family law attorneys take pride in helping mothers fend off legal custody challenges and retain the custodial rights of their children.
We are pleased to offer some of the most affordable and effective legal services in Fort Worth and Arlington. Unlike other law firms in Tarrant County, we are up-front about our pricing, so you know exactly what you’ll pay in your custody case.
Our experienced legal team has handled many custody cases and is ready to help you navigate yours. If you have questions or would like legal advice on your child custody situation, an attorney from our law firm is here for you.
Schedule a no-cost consultation with our family law experts at S + L today. It might make the difference between loss of custody and restoration of your parenting rights.