Child Custody & Children Under Three Guidelines

If you are contemplating divorce and have young children, you may have heard that Texas has guidelines regarding custody for children under the age of three.  You’re probably wondering how this will impact you.

custodyIn 2011 the Texas legislature addressed this issue by releasing guidelines courts must apply when determining a custody arrangement.  These guidelines are contained in the Texas Family Code, Section 153.253 and include the following factors:

  • Childcare-giving prior to the custody lawsuit
  • Caregivers’ availability and willingness to care for the child
  • The child’s physical, medical, emotional, economic and developmental needs
  • Physical, medical, emotional, economic and social conditions of parties seeking possession
  • Impact of others who will be present during possession
  • Presence of siblings
  • Child’s need to develop healthy contact with parents
  • Child’s need for continuity of routine
  • Location and proximity of parents
  • Whether a child needs temporary possession before shifting to the possession change under a new order
  • Parents’ ability to share responsibilities

When these guidelines were made into law, many concluded that this would change the face of custody arrangements for children under three.  This however, may not be the case.

Many clients have walked into our office thinking that due to their child’s young age, they would not be forced to share overnight visitation with the child’s other parent, or that the primary caregiver would not be forced to share time with the other parent.  We have never found a judge to apply the under three guidelines in a way which the other parent did not receive standard visitation, absent extenuating circumstances.

If you are a parent who is seeking a special possession order based on your child’s age, be prepared to show extenuating circumstances that will sway a judge from imposing standard visitation.

It is important to remember that Texas is a state that believes in close parental contact so much as to impose a residency restriction to ensure child and parent remain geographically near.  It is no stretch of the imagination that a judge would find it difficult to impose anything less than standard possession for custody.

Written by Lisa Sharp

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