What Affects Child Custody in Texas?

Father laying on his back on a bed while holding up his baby in the air.Here at The Love DuCote Law Firm, PLLC, we are often asked about what affects child custody in Texas. Many of our clients are parents and come to us concerned about who will get custody if they proceed with a divorce.

The answer is that in every single case where court involvement becomes necessary, the courts will examine each parent. Neither mother nor father gains any bias beforehand. Each parent has equal rights, which means ultimately, the decision will be made that is in the child’s best interests.

Texas family law Judges must make their rulings based on what they believe to be in the child’s best interests. It is always preferable that parents come to an amicable agreement on child custody arrangements. However, this is not always possible. When divorcing spouses cannot come together on important decisions such as who gets primary custody and who gets visitation, court involvement becomes necessary.

It has been proven through numerous studies that children that have full access to both of their parents following divorce have the best chance at healthy development. Texas family law courts have also adopted this ideology, meaning that wherever possible, they will want parents to enter into a shared custody plan.

The only time where one parent may be awarded sole custody, become sole managing conservator, or awarded visitation that must be supervised, is when one of the spouses has been proven to pose a danger to the child.

Contact The Love DuCote Law Firm Today

Here at The Love DuCote Law Firm, our team is highly experienced in child custody cases. We have worked with countless clients, representing them in their family law matters and winning them the favorable outcome they are pursuing.

We take the time to foster and build an attorney-client relationship built from the understanding that we will work tirelessly on your behalf. This includes educating and keeping you informed so you are never left in the dark about your case.

We can help you and your spouse to sit down and negotiate terms, or if you are incapable of sitting down together, we can arrange mediation to give you a last chance at coming together to make a joint decision without the need for court involvement. This will protect you from a drawn-out process and additional court costs.

If you do need court involvement, we are more than prepared to fight your case. Our attorneys are skilled trial lawyers and are capable litigators.

To arrange an initial consultation with a skilled Texas child custody lawyer, call today at 832-843-1691.

The Important Factors the Court May Consider When Determining Child Custody in Texas?

The courts will make their decisions based upon their investigation of each parent. Each parent will be on the same footing entering the hearing, as neither mother nor father gains any advantage for their gender.

Instead, the courts will want to look at:

Previous Involvement Of Each Parent in Their Child’s Life

One of the most important things to look at, is how involved each parent has been in their children’s lives up until this point. They will want to see who takes the children to their sporting events, spends quality time with them, takes them to the doctors and dentists and attends school events and parents evenings.

If you have been involved in your children’s lives, the court will want you to maintain that parent-child relationship, regardless of whether you have primary custody or not.

Ability to Meet the Child’s Emotional, Financial and Physical Needs

As a married partnership, when you have children, you and your spouse have a legal obligation to meet your children’s needs, financially, emotionally and physically. Just because you are separating does not mean that these needs will not need to be met so the Judge will want to see how each parent meets their children’s needs and their ability to do so in the future.

They will want to examine each parent and their stability, i.e, how well they hold down a job, how good they are at paying bills on time and whether or not they have any debt.

They will also want to look at who has a good understanding of their child’s developmental needs and provides them with emotional support when they need it.

Does Either Parent Pose a Risk To The Children?

One factor that overrides all else, is if one parent poses a threat to the safety and well-being of the children involved. The courts may consider any history with drugs and alcohol, criminal records and any history of abusive behavior or neglect as an indicator of this.

If you are the spouse with a history, do not worry, if you have reformed and you can present a compelling case that your history is behind you, it may not be used against you. You will need to secure skilled legal representation to help you present to help you with this.

If you are accusing your spouse of posing a danger to your children, then you will also need to discuss your case with an attorney as you will be expected to evidence your claims in your appeal.

The Child’s Wishes

When a child reaches the age of 12 in Texas, they are legally allowed to sign an affidavit that tells the courts of their preference for living with a chosen parent.

The Judge is allowed to consider this as a factor, but they are not required to follow the child’s preference if they believe that it will be in their best interests to go against their preferences.

Family and Community Proximity

If a child has grown up so far in a close-knit family circle or in another community group, such as a church group, this relationship is important and the Judge may wish to keep the child close to these community groups.

The Different Types of Texas Custody Arrangement

Under the Texas Family Code, there are two main types of custody that are recognized, sole and joint.

Joint Custody

Texas family law Judges will prefer to award joint custody because, in the majority of cases, a child will have the best chance of healthy development when they have access to both parents after the divorce.

If joint custody is awarded, it means that both parents are joint managing conservators and have an equal say in the important decisions in their children’s lives. This includes an equal say in the choice of the child’s education and medical care, as well as religious upbringing.

Joint custody does not mean a 50/50 visitation schedule. Usually, one parent becomes the primary custodian following a child custody case. The other parent gains visitation rights which gives them at least the minimum amount of time they get access.

The most common visitation schedule is one where parents alternate weekends with their kids and the child spends one night a week with the non-custodial parent. This can be tweaked if necessary and the Judge will want you to come up with the plan that suits you and your children the best. This may be an alternating week schedule or any other visitation schedule as long as each parent gets the minimum amount of time with their kids.

Sole Custody

Sole custody, which is where one parent is awarded sole managing conservatorship, is reserved for cases where it can be proven that the other parent poses a danger to the children. This may be because they have a history or are currently using drugs/alcohol, have a history of domestic violence, or if they have a criminal record.

If one parent is awarded sole managing conservatorship, they gain the right to make all of the important decisions on behalf of their children, and the other parent loses any right to make those decisions.

Sole custody does not mean that the other parent will not still get their visitation rights, but in serious cases even those rights may be taken away, or visitation may have to be supervised by a third party with no overnight stays.

If you are considering pursuing sole custody, you should know that it will not be easy. You will need to present a strong case, and this is best done with the help of a skilled attorney as your advocate. They will help you put forward the case in the best possible way, supported with evidence.

Benefits of Negotiation and Mediation

Here at The Love Ducote Law Firm LLC, we will always try to help you and your spouse come to an amicable decision regarding child custody cases with the use of negotiation or mediation.

There are many benefits to negotiation and mediation, such as:

Saves Time

Nobody wants a drawn-out prolonged divorce, and the more issues you cannot agree upon, the more hearings you will need. Negotiations and mediation save time and are the preferred alternative to court involvement in a Texas child custody case because they provide a quicker resolution than a contested court hearing.

Negotiations or mediation may take as little as a few hours to a few days, compared to a fully contested court hearing which can have the potential to take several weeks, even months.

Saves Money

The more hearings you need and the more court involvement, the higher the legal fees and court costs each party will have to pay. Negotiations and mediation can save both parties money as court involvement can be avoided as much as possible. This is especially helpful for spouses who know that with their limited financial resources, they will not be able to afford an extended court battle.

Protects Children

One of the most important reasons why mediation and negotiation tactics should be used first is that they create a much more child-friendly atmosphere. Negotiations and mediation are conducted in a more relaxed setting than a traditional hearing, and the conversations tend to be less formal. With the right negotiators, you may find that there is very little conflict and you can preserve your relationship as much as possible. It also spares your children from having to appear in court.

Personalized Arrangements

The last reason is that using negotiation and mediation allows for a much more personalized arrangement that will suit everyone. Court involvement means that, ultimately, the decision will be made by the Judge and this may be one that neither party is truly happy with.

A family law attorney from The Love DuCote Law Firm LLC can help you and your ex-spouse formulate a parenting plan using mediation and negotiation.

When parents arrive at a parenting plan, it will need to be approved by a Judge. Your attorney will help ensure that your parenting plan is in line with Texas family law and is likely to be approved by the Judge overseeing your case.

Texas FAQ – What Affects Child Custody in Texas

Which parent is more likely to be awarded custody in Texas?

Neither parent has any advantage over the other entering into proceedings. While in the past there may have been a bias towards mothers, the Texas Family Code is clear, both parties have equal rights.

The parent that wins custody will be the one the Judge thinks is in the best interest of the children to live with.

What is considered an unsuitable home for a child?

A family law Judge will evaluate each case of an unstable home differently. Instability can include financial difficulties, a lack of access to basic necessities, emotional neglect, parents with demanding jobs and little time for their children, neglect of home tasks, and physical living conditions that are dangerous or unsanitary. In other cases, the decision may be made that the house is unstable because the child may be exposed to third parties who could pose a risk or create a threatening environment.

What if my ex-spouse badmouths me to our children?Accordion Title

One thing that Texas family law Judges will frown heavily upon, is any attempt to manipulate the children so that their opinion of the other parent is negatively impacted. Constant bad-mouthing of the other parent or telling the child the other parent is not nice, nasty, mean, etc, are all examples of alienation.

If you are concerned that your ex-spouse is doing this to you, then you should contact a family law lawyer who can help evidence your claims so that the court is made aware of what is happening.

Can I refuse visitation if spousal maintenance or child support is not paid?

Child support orders and spousal support orders are legally binding and must be followed. However, child visitation orders are also legally binding, separate documents. This means they are both legally binding, and one cannot impact the other.

If your spouse is neglecting to pay you the adequate child support payments they are obligated to, you cannot withhold visitation, or you are committing a similar infringement. In this situation, you are both breaching your orders.

Payments do not disappear simply because your spouse has decided they do not want to pay them. Eventually, with the help of your attorney, or in more serious cases, the courts, they will pay you what you are owed.

What are temporary child support orders?

Temporary child support orders in Texas are court orders issued by a Judge during the pendency of a divorce or paternity action that requires one parent to pay the other parent a specific amount of child support until a final child support order is entered.

Contact a Child Custody Attorney From The Love DuCote Law Firm Today

Here at The Love DuCote Law Firm, we understand how important the outcome of your family law matters is to our clients. We work incredibly hard to secure a favorable outcome that will protect your chances of a bright new future.

We are here to help you through every step, from before the divorce process even begins to years down the line if you need modifications. We stay your advocate, ready to help whenever you need us.

Give us a call today at 832-843-1691 and speak to an experienced family law attorney.