Frequently Asked Questions

Custodial and Noncustodial Parents

What rights do I have at all times?

Unless limited by court order both custodial and noncustodial parents ALWAYS have the right to:

  1. receive information from the other parent about the health, education, and welfare of the child;
  2. confer with the other parent to the extent possible before making a decision concerning the health, education, and welfare of the child;
  3. access medical, dental, psychological, and educational records of the child;
  4. consult with a physician, dentist, or psychologist of the child;
  5. consult with school officials concerning the child’s welfare and educational status, including school activities;
  6. attend school activities;
  7. be listed on the child’s records as an emergency contact;
  8. consent to medical, dental, and surgical treatment during an emergency involving an immediate danger to the health and safety of the child; and
  9. manage the estate of the child to the extent the estate has been created by the parent or the parent’s family.

Sharing Information

You also have the duty (requirement) at all times to inform the other parent of any important information regarding the child’s health, education, and welfare. Unless you have requested confidentiality or that a family violence indicator be placed on your case, court orders require parents to share information with each other regarding their child’s health, education, and welfare. Things that you should ALWAYS tell the other parent include:

  • If you move, your new address (not doing this is a contemptible offense)
  • If you change your phone number (not doing this is a contemptible offense)
  • If you are married to or intend to marry a person who you know is a registered sex offender (not doing this is a Class C misdemeanor)

These requirements to share information apply to parents named in the order. You are not required to give your address if:

  • there was a history of domestic violence; AND
  • your court order does not require you to give your information.
  • The court order may specifically state that the other parent has no right to know your address.

Each of these rights and duties will be outlined in your order. If anyone questions your right to information, such as your child’s medical records, take a copy of your court order with you to the doctor’s office.

Parent tip: Take your court order to your child’s school and ask that it be placed in his or her file. This will make it easier to speak to your child’s teacher or eat lunch with your child at permissible times.

Rights and duties during your possession or parenting time with your child

You have possession of your child when your child is staying with you. This is also the time you are parenting your child, or parenting time. The noncustodial parent with a standard possession order will usually have possession of the child on the 1st, 3rd, and 5th weekends, one weeknight per week during the school term, on certain holidays, and for a long period during the summer. The custodial parent will have possession at all other times.

Unless limited by the court order, you have the following rights and duties during the period that you spend with your child:

(1) duty of care, control, protection, and reasonable discipline of the child;
(2) duty to support the child, including providing the child with clothing, food, shelter, and medical and dental care that does not involve an invasive procedure;
(3) right to consent for medical and dental care for the child that does not involve an invasive procedure;
(4) right to consent to medical, dental, and surgical treatment during an emergency involving immediate danger to the child’s health and safety; and
(5) right to direct the moral and religious training of the child.

What rights are divided between the parents?

There are certain rights given exclusively to the parent with whom the child primarily lives, or the custodial parent or the primary joint conservator. These rights are to:

  1. establish the primary residence of the child; and
  2. receive child support on the child’s behalf.

These are some rights the parents may agree to share or the court may decide that only one parent has the rights below (usually the custodial parent). These include the right to:

  1. Consent to medical, dental, and surgical treatment involving invasive procedures;
  2. Consent to psychiatric and psychological treatment of the child;
  3. Represent the child in legal action and to make other decisions of substantial
    legal significance concerning the child;
  4. Consent to marriage and to enlistment in the armed forces;
  5. Make decisions concerning the child’s education;
  6. The services and earnings of the child;
  7. Act as an agent of the child’s estate if any action is required by federal or state law (unless a guardian has been appointed to take care of the child’s estate).

Read your order closely to see which decisions you have the right to make.

I am a teen parent. Is anything different for me?

A teen parent, also known as a “minor parent,” refers to a person under 18 years of age, who requires an adult (preferably a parent or legal guardian) to represent him or her in the child support court process. An adult representative must come to court because a minor cannot legally sign a waiver of service or enter a general appearance before the court in lieu of being served in person. When a child support case is opened with the OAG, a child support worker will contact the minor parent. The child support worker will describe the child support process; explain why the minor parent must have his or her parent, legal guardian, or adult representative present during all legal proceedings; and verify who can serve as the minor’s adult representative. If the minor parent identifies someone other than his or her parent or legal guardian, the OAG must get an Authorization for Release of Information or payment form on file so that the representative can receive information on the minor’s case.

Additional Resources from the Attorney General of Texas:

What if I don’t know where my child is living?

Most Texas court orders involving children require both parents to keep each other and the court informed about their current residence and place of employment. A court order that outlines visitation may have identification information that could be helpful in trying to locate your child. Obtain a copy of the court order from the district court clerk in the county where a decree was issued or paternity was established.

If the other parent moves without notifying you, or if the other parent disappeared with the child or is intentionally hiding the child, contact an attorney about your options. You may also need the assistance of a private detective or law enforcement officials. If you do not have an attorney, call the Access and Visitation Hotline at 1 (866) 292-4636 from 1 – 7 p.m., Monday through Friday, and speak with a parenting time specialist for more information. Follow the link to learn more about hiring an attorney.

Locate services are available from the OAG to individuals who are not receiving full child support services, but who request help in locating a parent. The OAG does not release address or other contact information.

You may apply for State Parent Locator Service if you are:
• the custodial parent with physical possession of the child(ren);
• a person (other than a parent) who, for at least the past six months, has had physical possession of the child(ren);
• the legal guardian or managing conservator with legal custody of the child(ren);
• a judge or agent of a court with jurisdiction over the paternity and/or support case;
• a court with jurisdiction to enforce custody or visitation; or
• the attorney of the child(ren) for whom paternity and/or support is sought.

Office of the Attorney General – Application for State Parent Locator Service

Complete the application and send it to:

Office of the Attorney General
Child Support Division – MC 036
State Parent Locate Service
P.O. Box 12400
Austin, TX 78711-2400

Most Texas court orders involving children require both parents to keep each other and the court informed, in writing, about their current residence and place of employment. Not all parents follow the court order and violations are enforceable through the court. Filing a motion with the court requires letting the other parent know about the pending action.

Court orders in cases involving family violence may not have this requirement to notify the parent about a change in residence or current contact information for safety reasons.

I am planning to move. Will this change my visitation/court order?

Check your court order to see if moving is restricted. In general, if you move less than 100 miles away from your child, your visitation will not change.

If you have the standard possession order AND a parent moves more than 100 miles away from your child, then you may have the option of changing to one weekend a month instead of every 1st, 3rd, and 5th weekend. Some parents continue the 1st, 3rd, and 5th weekend if time and money allow. Summer visitation will become longer (from about 30 days to about 42 days) and you will get possession of your child every year during spring break rather than every other year. You may have to give up your weekday visits.

If the alternate schedule works better for you, you have 90 days after you move to give the other parent notice that you have moved, and that you intend to exercise the alternate possession schedule.

Unless the court order has a different requirement, you may have to drive to the custodial parent’s house to pick up and drop off your child (unless you and the other parent make another arrangement). The costs of transportation, including flying, can be addressed in the court order. Some orders require the parent that is moving to pay all costs, and other orders require the parents to divide the costs equally or in proportion to their incomes.

How will the move affect your child? Moving may reduce the time you can spend with your child. There are ways to fill this gap, such as scheduling time every week or so to talk to your child on the phone, or online. If you schedule a time to communicate, follow through to keep from disappointing your child. Most importantly, make sure your child understands why you are moving and that you still want to be an involved parent.

What if I want to switch from possessory conservator to managing conservator?

If the managing conservator voluntarily gives the child to you, you can seek help from the OAG. Go here to read more about how to do that.

If the parent does not agree that you should be managing conservator, it can be a little harder. You must prove that circumstances have changed and living with you is in the child’s best interest.

A court would be more likely to appoint you as a managing conservator if the parent has voluntarily given the child to you or another person or agency.

Contact an attorney if you want to be the managing conservator. An attorney can help you file a motion to modify the court order. Read more about motions to modify here. Check with your local library or law library to find forms you need to file.

If you think that the child is in serious and immediate danger, contact 911 (in the case of an emergency) and/or Child Protective Services at 1 (800)-252-5400 if you believe the child is being abused or neglected.

In cases involving family violence, you may also be able to get emergency relief in the form of a protective order. You should follow the protective order with a suit to modify conservatorship.

Where can I obtain a certified birth certificate?

In most cases, you need to contact the court clerk of the county where the child was born. You can also find this information using VitalChek, or in Texas, the Texas Department of State Health Services – Vital Statistics Unit.

I want the child to live with me (change of custody).

This requires filing a motion with the court to change the conservatorship, possession and access and child support orders. The Office of the Attorney General cannot help with this—it must be handled by a district court. You must file a motion to change conservatorship with a district court (check with the law library in the county that issued the original order and follow the rules about giving the other party notice). If you have a case with the OAG, include the OAG on the notice so any changes to who receives or pays child support are addressed. TexasLawHelp.org has a Modification Kit to help with this process.

The court will hear evidence about why it would be better (in the child’s best interest) for the child to live with you. The court may appoint a guardian ad litem to meet with all parties and report the findings to the court. Guardians ad litem represent children’s best interests in family law cases. Their service may be through a domestic relations office or through a private practice. There is a fee for this service, and the judge may make both parties pay a portion of the costs.

When the court decides where a child should live, it is making a decision about conservatorship (commonly called custody). Read more about Custody and Visitation.

Although only one parent gets to determine where the child lives, both parents typically have significant access through the standard possession order. Read more about the Standard Possession Order. Read more about the importance of a father’s involvement.

How can I tell if my name is in the court order?

Read the court order to find out if your name is in it.   If the parents do not have a copy of the signed court order, ask for a copy from the district clerk’s office in the county where the order was issued.  Look at the section about conservatorship that lists the names of those appointed as conservators (or custodial or noncustodial parent) of the child.  If your name is missing, then you are not a conservator, even if you have always been involved in the child’s life.  Only conservators have the legal ability to make certain decisions for a child.