Under Texas family law, there is a presumption that one or both parents should be named managing conservator of a child in an original suit for custody. If, however, the child’s health or emotional well-being would be significantly impaired, the court may appoint a non-parent if doing so is in the child’s best interest. This presumption can make it difficult for non-parents to gain custody. A mother recently challenged an order giving her child’s paternal grandparents custody.
She appealed the order that appointed her and the child’s paternal grandparents as joint managing conservators, with the grandparents having the exclusive right to designate the child’s primary residence. The trial court had issued that order following a petition to modify a 2013 order that granted the grandparents possession and access to the child.
The trial court titled its order “Order in Suit to Modify Parent-Child relationship.” The court found the child had primarily lived with the grandparents, and they had “had actual care, control, and possession of the child with the voluntary consent of [the mother].” The court also found the mother had been arrested for Battery and Cruelty to a Child in an incident involving her teenage daughter. The court found the mother had a history of drug use and instability. The trial court concluded the mother had relinquished care, control and possession of the child to the grandparents, that appointing her as sole managing conservator or giving her the right to determine the child’s primary residence would significantly impair the child’s physical health or emotional development, and that the modification was in the child’s best interest.