Ask a Divorce Lawyer: How Long Does a Child Custody Case Take in Texas?

Divorces are stressful enough when there’s only the division of property to consider. Add child custody into the equation, and an already tense situation can quickly become volatile. Working with a divorce lawyer in Houston, TX, will ensure that your child’s best interests are protected throughout the divorce filing and increase the likelihood that you and your spouse can reach a fair custody agreement.

Ask a Divorce Lawyer: How Long Does a Child Custody Case Take in Texas?

Most parents are eager to know how long they can expect their child custody case to take when filing for divorce, but there isn’t a specific answer that applies to every custody case. While parents have six to twelve months from the filing date to agree on a shared custody arrangement, how long the process takes will depend on the length of time it takes both parents to come to an agreement.

Uncontested custody cases can be completed in a month, but where parents cannot reach an agreement, the process can last for over a year. Finally, if both parties cannot establish an appropriate custody arrangement, the case must be decided in court.

Terms to Know:


In Texas, child custody is referred to as a “conservatorship.” The court decides cases dealing with conservatorship, and courts typically appoint both parents as joint managing conservators. Joint custody involves naming one parent as the primary conservator and one as the possessing conservator. The primary conservator is usually the parent with physical custody and the child living with them most of the time.

The possessing conservator will typically pay child support and have a legal right to spend time with the child. Cases involving abuse, substance issues, or violence are exceptions, and courts determine custody for these situations on a case-by-case basis.


Possession refers to the amount of time the child spends with each parent. Courts usually adhere to the Texas standard possession order unless there are unique circumstances. When following the standard possession order, one parent’s home will be established as the child’s primary residence.

The other parent will have possession on Thursdays and the month’s first, third, and fifth weekends. Parents can request a custom schedule if deviating from the standard order would benefit the child, but they will have to prove that altering the plan is in the child’s best interest, and both parents will need to agree with the change.

Child Support

Child support is usually paid by the parent who does not have the primary conservatorship of the child. The majority of custody cases have a child support agreement given out with the final order. The amount of child support the possessing conservator is responsible for is determined by their income and the number of children in the custody case.

Typically, child support for one child will be 20% of the non-primary parent’s net monthly income, two children will be 25%, and three children will be 30%. The percentage increases to match the number of children, and the amount will change based on the paying parent’s employment.

Deciding Custody

The court awards custody based on what they believe is best for the child. Mediation is always encouraged as the first step, with the goal of motivating both parents to find a solution acceptable to them that benefits the child. Joint legal custody will be presumed the best option for the child unless one parent can prove the other should not have partial custody.

Factors considered by the court when deciding primary physical custody include:

  • The health, safety, and wellness of the child
  • Any child abuse
  • Each parent’s financial situation
  • Where the parents live
  • Parents’ proximity to one another
  • Each parents health
  • The child’s relationship with each parent

Sole Custody

Texas state laws make it difficult for one parent to gain sole custody and become the only managing conservator. They also make it challenging to terminate the other parent’s rights. Since some parents may seek sole custody for selfish reasons, like making their ex-spouse jealous, courts are hesitant to award sole custody or terminate rights unless the child is at risk.

Hire a Divorce Lawyer in Houston, TX

If your spouse is threatening to withhold custody from you, or you believe they may try to paint you as an irresponsible parent, it is crucial that you contact family law attorneys in Houston, TX, to assist you. Even if you have no reason to think that your partner would try to limit your time with your child or behave in a way that doesn’t consider their needs, you can still benefit from working with a divorce attorney.

Working with an attorney will streamline the filing process, and having someone in your corner in case things become combative is a wise move. It’s common for couples to believe they can divorce amicably. However, as the stress of filing intensifies and both partners have difficulty reaching agreements, working with a divorce lawyer in Houston, TX, can help you maintain a cordial relationship with your partner and find the best solution for your child.

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