Seeking Child Custody? 7 Hurdles to Be Ready For

Child custody (or conservatorship as it is known in Texas courts) can be one of the most difficult aspects of a divorce. As a parent, you want to be a part of your child’s life, but what if your former spouse doesn’t want you involved? In Texas, all decisions regarding child custody, support payments, and visitation are made with the best interest of the child in mind. If you are pursuing joint or sole custody of your child and your partner does not agree to this, you’ll want to be ready. Knowing in advance what the courts are looking for can help you to be better prepared to fight for what’s best for your child.

  1. Courts prefer that both parents be involved in the child’s life whenever possible. But in cases of abuse, neglect, addiction, or long absences from a child’s life, courts can rule that one parent will have sole managing conservatorship. This means that he or she alone can make crucial decisions about the child, including education, medical care, religious instruction, residence, extracurricular activities, and more. Even in the event of abuse or neglect, supervised visitation can still be ordered.
  2. When determining child custody, courts will look at your past history with the child and your former spouse. This includes evaluating the stability and suitability of each parent’s home, as well as each parent’s ability to provide for the child’s needs on a daily basis. If you have made mistakes in the past with regard to your spouse or children, it is best to have documentation prepared detailing what you’ve done to remedy the situation. Examples might include proof of anger management classes, drug or alcohol treatment, personal counseling, etc.
  3. Before court appearances begin, parents are encouraged to devise a parenting plan that details conservatorship, possession, and access aka child custody and visitation. It’s important that you do your best to be flexible and fair during this process. The courts will be more likely to agree to the parenting plan if both parents are in agreement on major points. If this is not possible, your attorney can help a judge understand why.
  4. Parents seeking conservatorship must be able to demonstrate full knowledge of their child’s needs, and to demonstrate their own ability to meet those needs. Be sure you know about your child’s particular physical and emotional needs, allergies, struggles with education, or anything else unique to your child.
  5. Child custody is separate from any child support payments the court may mandate. It’s important to be forthcoming about your income and expenses to insure that support payments are calculated fairly and accurately. These can be modified later if circumstances change. Often, the noncustodial parent will make support payments to the parent with whom the child lives, but not always. An experienced family law attorney can help you understand the child support payment process.
  6. Children over the age of 12 may be allowed to testify as to which parent they want to live with. It’s important that neither parent attempt to pressure nor intimidate a child in any way. Under most circumstances, it’s best not to bring children to court unless they need to testify. Divorce and child custody proceedings can be acrimonious, even ugly.
  7. The best way to get a favorable child custody agreement is to take an active role in the lives of your children. If you can demonstrate that you are a vital part of your children’s daily or weekly routine, the courts are more likely to agree that your continued access to the children is in their best interest. Even if you haven’t been doing this all along, the changes that come with a divorce can bring a new beginning to your relationship with your children.

An experienced lawyer who has handled child custody cases like yours can be a tremendous help in understanding and navigating the process. A consultation with a family law attorney may help you decide how to best proceed.

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