What House Bill No. 803 Could Mean for Texas Parents
Good news may be on the horizon for parents in Texas who are fighting for more time in their child custody arrangements. Currently, there is a child custody bill waiting to be considered by the Texas legislature. House Bill No. 803 would in effect provide Texas parents with a default 50/50 share in child custody versus the standard custody court award, which defaults to Standard Possession Order with the non-custodial parent having possession of the child about 40-45% of the time. Parents have expressed frustration with the current Standard Possession Order as it leads to unnecessarily tedious and expensive litigation to essentially prove that one parent is more “fit” than the other parent in order to obtain more time with their children.
According to Texas Family Code §153.002, child custody is awarded by considering the best interests of the child. This “best interest” standard is used by the Court to determine which parent should be deemed the custodial parent. In Holley v. Adams, 544 S.W.2d 367 (Tex. 1976), the Texas Supreme Court set out many factors for the Court to consider when determining what is in a child’s best interest, including:
1. Desires of the child;
2. Emotional and physical needs of the child now and in the future;
3. Emotional and physical danger to the child now and in the future;
4. Parental abilities of the individuals seeking custody;
5. Programs available to assist these individuals to promote the best interest of the child;
6. Plans for the child by these individuals or by the agency seeking custody;
7. Stability of the home or proposed placement;
8. Acts or omissions of the parent which may indicate that the existing parent-child
relationship is not a property one; and
9. Any excuse for the acts or omissions of the parent.
Under House Bill No. 803, the Court would be required to enter a 50/50 possession schedule unless the Court determines it would not be in a child’s best interest.
Additionally, in some cases, the opinions of the child regarding his or her best interests will be considered by the court. Specifically, in a nonjury trial or hearing (at the request of a party or the attorney for the child), the court will interview in chambers a child 12 years of age or older (and may interview in chambers a child under 12 years of age) regarding that child’s wishes as to which parent he wishes to live with to determine that child’s best interests.
Furthermore, Texas Family Code §153.003 stipulates that there is to be no preference given to the sex or marital status of a parent when determining child support. However, it must be noted that there does seem to be a long-standing trend toward courts awarding a larger share of custody to women. In fact, a recent study has shown that custodial mothers represent about 25% of all women living with children in the United States, while custodial fathers represent less than 8% of all fathers living with children in the United States. It follows then that fathers may have to put up more of a fight to be considered the custodial parent. It stands to reason that, with the current state of child custody in Texas, fathers are having an even harder time just trying to receive an equal share in custody.
House Bill No. 803 could be a step in the right direction toward ensuring that Texas parents are able to have a more equal share in custody, which will hopefully result in actualizing the best interests of the child. If passed, this Act would take effect on September 21, 2021.
If you have questions regarding child custody, please contact The Law Office of Lindsey Lewis, PLLC at (281) 768-4071 to schedule a consultation today!