In a Texas custody case, the court may grant certain rights and duties to one parent exclusively even if both parents are named conservators. The court may limit the rights or duties of a conservator parent if it finds, in writing, that doing so is in the child’s best interest. Tex. Fam. Code Ann. § 153.072. Courts may grant exclusive rights to one parent when the other reuses to cooperate with respect to those aspects of the child’s care. A father recently challenged a court order granting the mother a number of exclusive rights.
The mother petitioned to modify the parent child-relationship. She requested the exclusive right to designate the primary residence without a geographic restriction so she could accept a job and move to Louisiana.
The mother took a job in Monroe, Louisiana in 2015. The father also moved to Monroe, and they all lived there for several months. The mother testified he was abusive toward her. She also said he took her green card and moved with the children back to Texas.
The mother transferred to Texarkana to be closer to the children. She testified about a number of incidents involving the father and the children.
She testified there was now a job for her in Monroe, where her long-time boyfriend lived. She said the children liked Monroe. They had access to healthcare and good schools there. She currently had to drive one of the children two hours to a neurologist, but there was a neurologist in Monroe.
The mother’s boyfriend testified he sometimes watched the children during the father’s possession when the father’s family was unable to watch them. He also testified that he and his family were available for the children.
The father testified he returned to Texas because the mother had been abusive. He said his job often required him to spend several days out of town and that his family watched the children on those occasions.
The father did not comply with a subpoena requiring him to bring his financial records and documentation of his income. He only brought a few pay stubs.
The trial court found both parents remaining joint managing conservators with the mother having the exclusive right to designate the primary residence without a geographic restriction was in the children’s best interest. The court also granted the mother a number of exclusive rights. It ordered the father to pay $1,214.22 in monthly child support, plus half of the children’s educational and miscellaneous expenses. The father appealed.
The father argued the court abused its discretion by ordering him to pay more child support than the statutory guidelines. The court told him it had to base its determination on the information it had because he had not complied with the subpoena. The father argued the educational and miscellaneous expenses, in combination with the required monthly amount, exceeded 30% of his net monthly resources. The appeals court noted the numbers available suggested the court ordered less than the statutory guidelines. The trial court did not make findings of fact, so the appeals court presumed it considered the expenses and made an implied finding the total child support was within the guidelines.
The father also argued the trial court abused its discretion in granting certain exclusive rights to the mother. He argued there was not a material and substantial change in circumstances since the previous order and that the change was not in the best interest of the children.
There was a management position available to the mother in Louisiana, where her boyfriend, with whom she had a child, lived. She had resources there to help her care for the children. The children also had a support system in Texas, but the trial court found the father could not watch them when he had possession. The mother had also testified the father had been abusive and uncooperative in obtaining medical care and schooling for the children. She also testified they had better access to healthcare in Monroe. The trial court therefore could have determined the children would have better supervision, education, and healthcare if they lived in Monroe with their mother. The trial court also ensured the children would continue to have frequent contact with their father.
The appeals court found there was evidence of a material and substantial change since the prior order. The mother had another child and a job offer in Louisiana, and the father had a job that often prevented him from caring for the children. The appeals court found no abuse of discretion in the trial court’s granting the mother the exclusive right to designate a primary residence with no geographic restriction.
The appeals court also rejected the father’s argument the trial court abused its discretion in granting the mother other exclusive rights. Texas family law allows a court to limit a parent’s rights or duties if it makes a written finding that doing so is in the children’s best interest. Tex. Fam. Code Ann. § 153.072. The trial court found granting the mother these exclusive rights was in the best interest of the children. There was evidence the father was uncooperative in obtaining medical care and schooling for the children. The mother testified he took her green card, threatened to take the children to Italy without her agreement, and moved the children without telling her where they were. The appeals court found no abuse of discretion in the trial court granting the mother the exclusive rights it did, in light of the information in the record.
The appeals court affirmed the trial court’s order.
Although it can sometimes be difficult to prove a material and substantial change in circumstances to support a modification, the court found there had been material and substantial change in this case. The skilled Texas child custody attorneys at McClure Law Group can assist you in seeking or fighting a custody modification. Call us at 214.692.8200 to schedule an appointment.