Special Situations in Texas Child Conservatorship Cases

No two cases involving child conservatorship and possession are the same. Below, find information on special circumstances that could affect your case.

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Domestic violence, crime or substance abuse by a parent

The state's presumption that a child's parents should be named joint managing conservators is void when one of the parents has committed domestic violence. If a parent has abused the other parent, a spouse or any minor within two years of the suit, they likely won't serve as a managing conservator.

A judge or jury may also consider a parent who abuses substances or who has a criminal record inappropriate for a managing conservator role.

In all of the above cases, the court is still likely to grant the parent access to their child as a possessory conservator. If so, the court must issue an order that protects the well-being of the child and anyone who has been abused by the parent. The court order might require:

  • That exchange of the child occur in a supervised or public setting (like a friend or family member's home, a private provider's facility, a restaurant, etc.)
  • That the parent's possession be limited to daytime
  • That the parent's possession be supervised by someone selected by the court
  • That the parent abstain from consuming alcohol or using illegal drugs for 24 hours before seeing the child and while with the child
  • That the parent complete an abuse prevention program or similar course

Usually, only severe situations — like a violent crime against the child — prevent a parent from being named a conservator at all. In many cases, those parents may have possession and access rights reinstated after they get help for the problematic behavior.

When there's been violence between parents, the court can remove the victim's address from any documents the other parent might access.

When a judge finds that parents have a history of conflict over their child, the judge may order one or both of the parents to attend counseling. The judge may also assign a parenting coordinator or facilitator to the case.

If you knowingly make a false allegation of child abuse against the other parent, you can be fined up to $500. Making a false claim may ultimately hurt your chances of convincing a judge or jury that you are a competent parent.

Speak to an attorney if your case involves family violence, crime or substance abuse as these issues can complicate cases exponentially.

Child abduction

If a court considers a parent likely to take a child out of the country without permission or to keep the child beyond planned possession time, it has various modes of prevention.

First, a judge can require the parent to pay a security deposit or bond. The money is returned to the parent once the child turns 18, as long as the parent has complied with the court's orders.

More commonly, the judge will appoint a parenting facilitator, who holds onto the child's passport and reviews parents' travel plans, among other responsibilities.

A parent who keeps their child from the other parent against court orders may have to pay for expenses incurred or anguish caused. If a court decides the act was malicious, it may order further compensation.

Similarly, anyone who helps the parent with the abduction can be ordered to pay compensation if they had reason to believe the action violated an order.

Military duty

Texas law makes allowances for parents who can't follow their parenting plan when they move away for military duty.

When this happens, either parent can ask the court to change the family's orders temporarily. (You won't have to prove a substantial change in circumstances as usually required.) The court can then issue temporary orders for child support and possession that last until the parent returns home from military duty.

If the parent ordered to duty is the custodial conservator, the court will temporarily have the child live with one of the following people, based on what's best for the child:

  • First preference: The noncustodial conservator
  • Second preference: Someone chosen by the custodial conservator
  • Third preference: Another person chosen by the court

If the parent ordered to military duty is the noncustodial conservator, the court may allow them to have a substitute visit the child. Within 90 days of completing military duty, the parent can ask the court for makeup possession or access time.

Your parenting plan should include special provisions when either parent is in the military.

Addressing special situations in your parenting plan

Your parenting plan should be unique to your family and reflect your specific needs.

If a lawyer writes your plan, it's important you share with them any circumstances the plan should address.

If you're writing your own plan, you have the flexibility to include what you want. But — the plan needs to follow a format the judge will understand, plus use airtight language that leaves no room for interpretation.

The Custody X Change parenting plan template walks you through common provisions while letting you enter as many custom provisions as you want.

It's a sure way to get a plan that's tailored to your family AND meets court standards for formatting and language.

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