It is a common misconception that divorce courts favor mothers over fathers in custody cases.
Long gone are the days when divorce courts presumed that the mother should automatically receive sole custody rights upon divorce. Most states, including Texas, no longer have a presumption favoring women in custody disputes. Texas courts use a “best interest of the child” standard when awarding custody rights.
However, it does not change the fact that mothers are awarded custody or conservatorship rights more often than fathers when parents divorce.
If you believe that the other parent was awarded a sole managing conservator because of gender bias, do not hesitate to speak with our League City child custody attorney Rob Musemeche.
Can Texas Courts Favor Mothers Over Fathers?
It is a common misconception that judges and divorce courts in Texas still favor mothers over fathers in custody disputes. Years ago, courts presumed that children were better off with their mothers. However, times have changed, and family law courts presume that children should maintain a meaningful relationship with both parents.
In fact, Texas Family Code § 153.003 prohibits Texas divorce courts from discriminating based on sex and gender when assigning conservatorship or visitation rights.
Texas law requires courts to consider the child’s best interests when deciding which party to appoint as the sole managing conservator.
In Texas, a managing conservator has the following rights:
- The right to make decisions regarding the child’s medical care, religion, and education; and
- The right to determine the child’s primary residence.
A sole managing conservator is a parent who can make the above-mentioned decisions without the other parent’s consent. When the mother and father are joint managing conservators, they share these fundamental parenting rights.
Why Do Mothers Still Get More Custody Than Fathers?
Even though times have changed, mothers still receive the majority of custody after divorces in Texas and other states. However, most of these decisions are legitimate. For example, a mother may be favored over a father because:
- Mothers tend to take on more of the responsibility for parenting tasks, while fathers usually spend more time working (though there may be exceptions);
- Fathers are more likely to have a history of child abuse or neglect, domestic violence convictions, or substance abuse problems;
- Children may prefer to live with the mother; and
- Fathers are more likely to leave the family home when separating or divorcing.
What Factors Do Texas Divorce Courts Consider When Awarding Conservatorship?
In most cases, Texas courts prefer to award shared parenting responsibilities to both the mother and father to ensure that children spend equal time with both parents.
When awarding sole or joint managing conservator rights, divorce courts in Texas consider the best interests of the child. The child’s best interests encompass a variety of factors, including:
- The child’s needs;
- Each parent’s ability to fulfill their parental responsibilities;
- Any history of substance abuse, child abuse, child neglect, and domestic violence;
- The child’s relationship with each parent; and
- The child’s preference to live with either parent (if the child is old and intelligent enough).