For parents who are embroiled in a child custody dispute in Texas, it is important to understand the law when it comes to the potential outcome. However, it is also vital to know how the courts can interpret the law at their discretion. There is significant latitude granted in a family law case and the fundamental part of a determination is the child’s best interests. One common area of worry is whether there are unsaid and unknown factors that come to the forefront. For fathers who are hoping to have a fair shot at being given designated as the custodial parent, there is a perception that the courts will immediately favor the mother. Knowing the facts about this and how it can impact a case is imperative from the start.
What the law says about gender in a child custody case
As mentioned, Texas law focuses on the child’s best interests. This includes a safe environment, a nurturing home, being given the necessities of life such as food and shelter, having access to proper schooling, forging a relationship with siblings and contact the other parent. As the decision for conservatorship, possession and access is made, the law specifically says that there can be no discrimination based on sex (gender) or marital status. With that, fathers should expect to have as much of a chance at being named the conservator as the mother. However, as fathers’ rights movement advocates have complained, that is rarely the case and there is a perception that the default decision is that the mother will be the custodial parent with the father granted visitation rights.
Currently, the state has a standard possession order that gives the custodial parent 75% of the time with the child with the noncustodial parent given 25%. A recent attempt to change that law to give the parents equal time with the child – House Bill 803 – has been left pending in committee. The state attorney general’s office reports that women comprise approximately 92% of custodial parents. This directly contradicts the idea that gender is irrelevant in a determination. Cases are disputed as parents fight over the amount of time they get to spend with the child and as the decision is made as to who the custodial parent will be.
Navigating custody cases may require assistance
In a best-case scenario, the parents can cobble together a workable agreement on their own and will not need to go to court for a child custody decision to be made. Unfortunately, in family law cases in which there are lingering ill feelings from the breakdown of the relationship, that acrimony can extend to the custody case. Questions as to whether the court favors one parent over the either arise in almost every case and there is no easy answer based on the law and the statistics. Technically, courts are not supposed to favor one parent over the other based on gender. In practice, it certainly appears as if they do. Knowing this, parents should be protected as the case moves forward. Regardless of the perspective, having guidance and advice from the start can be helpful in trying to achieve an acceptable resolution.