Contrary to popular belief, Texas does not require a minimum number of days of living…
No. Texas courts do not favor mothers over fathers. In Texas, judges base child custody dispute rulings on the best interest of the child or children. However, it is important to understand the law when it comes to courts and the discretion the court has when determining child custody.
Most states no longer have a presumption of favoring women in custody disputes. In fact, this is extremely outdated and for many co-parents is no longer the norm. Still, this doesn’t change the fact that mothers are awarded custody or conservatorship rights more often than fathers when a couple divorces.
Where does this belief come from?
Years ago, Texas courts did presume children were better off with their mothers. However, over time, family law courts have come to recognize the benefits that children get from having meaningful relationships with both parents.
What does the Texas Family Code say about favoring gender?
The Texas Family Code is written without any bias. In fact, the code explicitly states:
“The court shall consider the qualifications of the parties WITHOUT regard to their marital status or to the sex of the party or the child in determining:
- Which party to appoint as the sole managing conservator;
- Whether to appoint a party as a joint managing conservator; and
- The terms and conditions of conservatorship and possession of and access to the child.”
In other words, courts base their rulings on who can provide the best and most stable environment while meeting the child’s needs.
The Rise in Shared Parenting Time
In 1960, only about 300,000 single fathers were granted custody of their children. However, this has changed significantly over the last 60 years. Today, there are over 2.5 million single fathers with custody in the United States. While mothers still receive the majority of custody after a divorce in Texas and other states, this trend shows that courts are more willing to give fathers caregiving roles.
Then why do mothers still get more custody than fathers?
In raw numbers, more mothers do get custody of their children more often than fathers. However, this is not because of the courts. In 90% of child custody agreements, parents determine what is best for their children without a judge’s ruling. Courts tend to honor the agreements that parents come to on their own.
Parents may come to an agreement on giving the mother more parenting time because even though more women work full time than in the past, women still tend to take on the primary caregiver role.
Reasons a court may have chosen the child’s mother as the managing conservator include the following:
- The mother took on more responsibility for parenting tasks.
- A child’s or children’s preferences.
- The father left the home during the separation or divorce.
In addition, according to research, fathers tend to struggle with substance abuse more than mothers.
Why are Fathers Getting More Parenting Time?
There are several reasons why fathers are getting more time with and custody of their children. First, it’s because fathers do in fact want to spend time with their children. Since the early 2000s, fathers’ rights advocacy groups have sprung up across the U.S. with the idea that parents deserve to be treated equally. In other words, fathers’ groups advocate for a presumption that children spend an equal amount of time with each parent after a separation. This work in raising awareness in the importance of fathers has largely paid off. Across jurisdictions, it’s estimated that fathers now receive primary custody 8-14% of the time.
Secondly, absent abuse or substance use, research has shown that children benefit the most when they spend time with both parents. Equal parenting time is only possible if the parents live within close proximity of one another. As noted, courts want to do what will benefit the child(ren) most and equal time with both parents is just that.
Texas Family Code § 153.003: What is the Best Interest of the Child?
It’s become increasingly common for fathers to win custody battles. The evaluation a Judge will make if both parents cannot come together for a mutual agreement depends on a litany of factors.
The Courts must consider what is in the best interest of the children in determining which conservator will have the exclusive right to determine the child(ren)’s residency. The child’s best interests include the following non-exclusive list:
- The caregiving provided to the child before and during the current suit
- How the child may be affected when separated from a parent
- The ability of a parent to personally care for the child
- The physical, medical, behavioral, and developmental needs of the child
- Physical, medical, emotional, economic, and social conditions of the parents
- Presence of other individuals during a parent’s periods of possession
- Child’s need to have healthy relationships with both parents
- Child’s need for consistency
- Distance between parents’ residences
- Age, developmental status, circumstances, and needs of the child
- History of contact with the child by a parent
- The ability of parents to share in responsibilities, rights, and duties of parenting
- Circumstances of each parent
- Desires of the child
- Emotional and physical needs of the child now and in the future
- Emotional and physical danger to the child now and in the future
- Parental abilities of each parent
- Each parent’s plans for the child
- Acts or omissions of the parent
- Any other relevant factor or evidence of the best interest of the child.
Again, this list is not a catch-all and there are several other factors a court may consider when determining custody arrangements. It’s best to consult with a family law attorney about establishing your parental rights.
How Can Fathers Prepare for a Child Custody Dispute?
If you and your spouse cannot come to a fair agreement, you have the right to establish parenting time through a judicial proceeding. Having a strong bond and taking on some of the caretaking tasks can put fathers in the best position when preparing for a custody battle. In addition, staying civil and respectful toward your spouse will not only benefit you in a courtroom but will also do wonders for your children. Lastly, don’t use your children as pawns to hurt your ex.
Understand that custody isn’t about winning or losing against your spouse. Establishing custody is about fostering a healthy environment that facilitates a positive relationship with both parents.
We care, we can help
If you find yourself needing orders for custody, visitation, and child support, contact one of our qualified family law attorneys today. Our team is ready to assist you in Bell, Coryell, Milam, Lampasas, Williamson, Hays, Travis, Bastrop, and Burnet counties. Call us at 866-576-4072 to schedule a free consultation today.