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Lost in divorce-speak? A guide to Texas child custody terminology

On Behalf of | Apr 25, 2024 | Firm News |

Dealing with divorce issues involving your kids can make you feel like you need to learn a whole new language – legalese.  

Unfortunately, misunderstanding legal jargon can have potentially severe consequences for you and your children. You may end up failing to get the custody arrangement you hoped for. To empower yourself, here’s a breakdown of critical child custody terms Texas courts use.

Understanding conservatorship of the child

As you know, many states still use the term child custody, but Texas employs different terminology. Courts here use conservatorship, but it does not address parenting time. Instead, conservatorship defines each parent’s rights and duties regarding the child’s residence and decision-making authority.

Understanding access and possession

In a Texas family court, you might hear the familiar word “visitation, but the official term is “access and possession.” Collectively, these terms refer to the minimum amount of time your children spend with each parent, per a court order.  

Separately, possession references in-person time, while access encompasses other contact methods like phone calls or video chats. Parents typically receive these binding court orders along with the final divorce decree.

Understanding the best interests of the child

This phrase, used across all states, represents the core principle judges rely on when making child-related decisions. Courts consider various factors when determining a child’s best interests, including:

  • Each parent’s ability to provide for the child’s needs
  • The mental and physical health of both parents
  • Stability of each parent’s home environment

While the court prioritizes your child’s well-being, they do not always get things right. Legal representation can help ensure your child-related court orders truly reflect what is best for your kids.