One of the most common reasons people delay divorce filings is concern for their parental rights. Parents generally love their children deeply and want to be with them as much as possible. The idea of losing custody in a divorce might even keep someone trapped in an unhappy marriage for years.
Although there are certainly horror stories amplified on social media and in popular media, the reality of divorce is usually far less dramatic and black-and-white than people believe. The state generally applies a neutral approach to custody proceedings where both parents theoretically have equal rights under the law.
Judges generally try to handle custody matters with a focus on the best interest of the children. Most judges believe that maintaining strong relationships with both parents is important for the long-term well-being of the children. Still, some divorces end with one parent gaining sole custody. How might a parent lose custody during a Texas divorce?
By giving up their rights
Some people worry about taking their cases to trial. They feel like they cannot afford an attorney or may worry that their spouse might try to smear them. If someone did not serve as a regular caregiver for the children or if they have a demanding career, they might mistakenly believe that a judge won’t award them shared custody anyway. Pessimism often leads to parents giving up their right to shared custody by signing an agreement with their spouse instead of going to court.
By being in an unstable position
Many people only lose custody temporarily after a divorce. A judge recognizes that they are in an unstable situation and cannot currently meet the needs of the children. Health challenges, a lack of stable housing, unemployment and even untreated mental health or substance abuse issues might lead to a judge giving one parent far more time with the children than the other. People can only have overnight custody when they can provide for the children’s needs. Those who lose custody due to instability may qualify for a modification when they improve their circumstances.
By presenting a threat of abuse or neglect
Some parents lose custody because they lack the ability to properly parent. They may have a history of neglecting or abusing their children. Other times, they may have severe substance abuse issues that prevent them from taking proper care of their children. If there’s evidence corroborating claims that the children could likely endure significant abuse or neglect at one parent’s home, that might influence how a judge divides parental rights and responsibilities.
Most parents receive some degree of parenting time even if the other parent has more overnight time with the children. As such, learning more about the Texas approach to custody may empower those who have stayed in an unhappy marriage out of love for their children.