FAQs
Frequently Asked Questions

This post is another in my Super Simple FAQs in Texas divorce laws.

How to get custody in Texas?

Custody in Texas is a loose term — the legal term is conservatorship. Conservatorship in Texas refers to the legal and physical relationship of each parent to a child. When parents have never married, the court can allocate the rights and duties regarding the child, as well as physical possession and financial support, between the parents. When parents are married to each other, this is unnecessary according to the law. But, when they get divorced  it becomes necessary to have the courts establish these parameters.

Texas Primary residence

In Texas, most parents are called “joint managing conservators”, meaning they have joint legal (but not necessarily physical) custody. They share in the decision-making regarding the child. However, Texas law requires that one of the joint conservators be given the “primary right to establish the child’s residence”. That parents is loosely termed the “primary parent” in Texas. Usually the parents agree to share the right to make other decisions, such as the right to make educational decisions or the right to make medical decisions regarding the child. If the parents show a tendency to disagree about decisions, these rights can be allocated exclusively to one parent.

Texas Possession periods

The physical custody of the child involves splitting up the time the child will spend with each parent. In Texas, this starts with the Texas Standard Possession Schedule, but the parents can agree to do something different. Or, if the Texas standard schedule does not work for a family, the court can craft a different schedule.

Texas Child support

Lastly, custody includes financial support of the child. One parent usually pays child support and provides health insurance for the child. Child support is determined in Texas based on a percentage of the paying parent’s net income up to the first $8550/month of income. The parents will also share the uninsured medical expenses between them.

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Photo of Michelle O'Neil Michelle O'Neil

Michelle May O’Neil has 27 years’ experience representing small business owners, professionals, and individuals in litigation related to family law matters such as divorce, child custody, and complex property division. Described by one lawyer as “a lethal combination of sweet-and-salty”, Ms. O’Neil exudes…

Michelle May O’Neil has 27 years’ experience representing small business owners, professionals, and individuals in litigation related to family law matters such as divorce, child custody, and complex property division. Described by one lawyer as “a lethal combination of sweet-and-salty”, Ms. O’Neil exudes genuine compassion for her client’s difficulties, yet she can be relentless when in pursuit of a client’s goals. One judge said of Ms. O’Neil, “She cannot be out-gunned, out-briefed, or out-lawyered!”

Family Law Specialist

Ms. O’Neil became a board-certified family law specialist by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization in 1997 and has maintained her certification since that time. While representing clients in litigation before the trial court is an important part of her practice, Ms. O’Neil also handles appellate matters in the trial court, courts of appeals and Texas Supreme Court. Lawyers frequently consult with Ms. O’Neil on their litigation cases about specialized legal issues requiring particularized attention both at the trial court and appellate levels. This gives her a unique perspective and depth of perception that benefits both her litigation and appellate clients.

Top Lawyers in Texas and America

Ms. O’Neil has been named to the list of Texas SuperLawyers for many years, 2011-2018, a peer-voted honor given to only about 5% of the lawyers in the state of Texas. In 2014-2018, Ms. O’Neil received the special honor of being named by Texas SuperLawyers as one of the Top 50 Women Lawyers in Texas, Top 100 Lawyers in Texas, and Top 100 Lawyers in DFW. She was named one of the Best Lawyers in America for 2016 and received an “A-V” peer review rating by Martindale-Hubbell Legal Directories for the highest quality legal ability and ethical standards.

Author and Speaker

A noted author, Ms. O’Neil released her second book Basics of Texas Divorce Law in November 2010, with a second edition released in 2013, and a third edition expected in 2015.  Her first book, All About Texas Law and Kids, was published in September 2009 by Texas Lawyer Press. In 2012, Ms. O’Neil co-authored the booklets What You Need To Know About Common Law Marriage In Texas and Social Study Evaluations.  The State Bar of Texas and other providers of continuing education for attorneys frequently enlist Ms. O’Neil to provide instruction to attorneys on topics of her expertise in the family law arena.