When children are caught in the middle of a divorce, things are complicated immensely in the legal system. Aside from the psychological shift the child may need to undergo, there are a variety of legal conundrums which must be resolved by the courts. These include questions of custody, child support, and visitation rights, among others.
As with most modern legal systems, the bottom line for Texas courts is the well-being of the child. Whatever is determined to be in the child’s best interest will be chosen over other concerns. The custody (or conservatorship, as it is christened in Texas) will go to the parent who can give the child the best (safest, most stable, and least violent) environment for growth and development. If both parents are equally suited to the task, then the courts prefer to give them joint custody (given the moniker of “Joint Managing Conservatorship” under Texas law). Texan legal tradition believes that this is in the best interest of the child, as psychological research shows that a cleaving of one parent from the family can have a devastating psychological impact on the young.
The smoothest way to deal with this matter is also the less circuitous insofar as the legal process goes: for the parents to simply agree amongst themselves on what is to happen with the child. Sometimes, however, the hostile nature of one or both of the spouses can preclude this option. In that case, a judge or jury will take many factors into consideration when making their decisions. The first consideration is which parent will give the child the best upbringing. Young people have physical, emotional, and psychological needs and the parent who can understand this is best equipped for the task to carry out a successful rearing campaign. Hostility of one parent to the other is one demerit which can lower a court’s confidence in the less peaceable party.
More practical and logistical matters may also be relevant to the case. A parent’s physical distance from the child’s most familiar location is taken into account. The actual amount of time each of the parents devoted to the rearing of the boy or girl also factor in. If the child is over the age of twelve, his preference is usually given some weight as well. Unfortunately, with younger children, their input is not considered.
The decision of who gets conservatorship of the child is often no less complex than that of the decision of how much alimony to be paid to a spouse. That is to say, it is not always something automatic. In fact, when more acrimony exists between the separating parties, one can predict that the divorce proceedings can be long and arduous indeed. This article only discusses child custody. The possibilities in the calculations of child support are even more complicated and even less subject to rules, with 40% or more of one spouse’s net resources possibly going to the abandoned family, depending on the number of children and the particular situation which surrounds the parties.