Child Custody After the Death of a Parent in Texas

At The Blacknall Firm, we understand that the loss of a parent is a deeply traumatic event for a child. When this unfortunate circumstance arises, the question of child custody becomes a critical issue that needs to be addressed with sensitivity and legal expertise. This blog post aims to provide practical advice and guidance on navigating child custody matters in Texas following the death of a parent.

Understanding Child Custody Laws in Texas

In Texas, the Family Code governs child custody issues. According to the Texas Family Code, the best interests of the child are always the primary consideration in determining issues of conservatorship and possession (Texas Family Code §153.002).

When a parent passes away, the surviving parent generally becomes the sole managing conservator, assuming they are fit to do so. This means they have the exclusive right to make decisions about the child’s welfare, including decisions about education, health care, and religious upbringing (Texas Family Code §153.132).

What Happens When the Surviving Parent is Unfit?

In situations where the surviving parent is deemed unfit or unable to care for the child, the court may appoint a suitable relative or another adult as the child’s guardian. This decision is based on several factors, including the child’s emotional and physical needs, the potential guardian’s ability to meet these needs, and the existing relationship between the child and the potential guardian (Texas Family Code §153.131).

The Role of a Will in Determining Child Custody

A deceased parent’s will can play a significant role in determining child custody. If the deceased parent named a guardian for their child in their will, the court would consider this person for guardianship. However, the court will ultimately base its decision on what it believes to be in the best interests of the child.

Practical Advice for Navigating Child Custody Issues

  1. Consult a Family Law Attorney: Navigating child custody issues can be complex and emotionally draining. It’s crucial to consult with a knowledgeable family law attorney who can guide you through the process and ensure the best possible outcome for the child.
  2. Keep Open Lines of Communication: If multiple parties are involved, try to maintain open and respectful communication. Remember, the focus should be on the child’s wellbeing.
  3. Prepare for Court Proceedings: If the matter goes to court, be prepared. Gather all necessary documents, and be ready to demonstrate your ability and willingness to care for the child.
  4. Consider the Child’s Wishes: In Texas, if the child is 12 years or older, the court may consider their wishes in determining conservatorship (Texas Family Code §153.009).

At The Blacknall Firm, we are committed to providing compassionate and effective legal representation in all matters of family law.

To discuss retaining our firm for your divorce or child custody case, please schedule a consultation with us today.