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A father’s rights in the context of a child custody or divorce case in Texas

My motivation to write this blog post and the one that preceded it (posted yesterday) was based on my experience working with dozens and dozens of good, well-intentioned fathers who feel like their rights take a backseat to those of their child’s mother.

While it could be argued that mothers have a leg up when fighting for and winning primary conservatorship of their children, it can also be argued that it has less to do with their being a mother or woman and more to do with their choices and circumstances.

For a father to win primary conservatorship of his child, he must be able to establish to a court that he has played a tremendously important role in his child’s life daily. Telling a judge that you see your child when you can because you’re so busy with work is not an excuse to win the day for you. Today, let’s get into some real-world tips for you as a father to consider before and during your child custody case or Divorce.

Emphasizing those critical points of being a “dad.”

Every man out there reading this blog post has their ideas of what it means to be a dad- yourself included. I’m not trying to disregard your thoughts or opinions on the matter, and I am certainly not trying to push my own beliefs on you.

However, I am going to share with you four points that I believe your judge is likely to consider in deciding who to name as the primary conservator of your child:

1. Take Advantage of Every Opportunity you are Given

Do you take advantage of every opportunity you are given to be with your child? If you are about to go through a divorce, you should ask yourself if work or other commitments of any sort have kept you from spending as much time as you can with your child. Failing to demonstrate a significant role in your child’s life as you wished can be detrimental in court. Consider whether or not you should push your case to a contested trial with a judge over the issue of conservatorship. A divorce decree is not set in stone.

You can file modifications based on a change in circumstances. If you use the interim years to build a level of trust with your child that allows you to play the role you have always wanted, then a future date may make more sense for you to proceed on an all-out effort to win primary conservatorship.

2. Take Care of Your Child daily

Going along with our first bullet point, do you take care of your child daily. One of the challenging parts of being a provider for a household is that you may not always be there for important days in your child’s life. Then, what about all the days where “nothing important happens.”

Those days where your child comes home from school, does their homework, eats dinner, and then hangs around until bedtime. Nothing exciting, just another day for your family. But, those days are the ones that are important to a judge.

Demonstrating an active and daily role in raising your child builds a strong case for becoming the primary conservator. Judges expect to see your immediate readiness to handle the responsibility from day one. Transitioning into this role later is a weak argument, even with time.

3. Know the Names of Your Child’s Friends and Their Parents

Do you know the girls’ names on your daughter’s soccer team? What about their parents? Have you ever helped out with a Girl Scout trip or your son’s Pinewood Derby?

Additionally, extra-curriculars allow your children to explore their interests and allow you to show your interest in your children. Consider your level of involvement in these activities and what role you played in encouraging your child’s activities outside of home and school.

4. Get Comfortable Being The Parent for Extended periods

One of the aspects of parenting that hit me like a ton of bricks as a young father was figuring out how to take care of my daughter on my own when my wife had to work or just when my wife wanted to take a half-day to go to get a massage or have lunch with a friend.

Gradually, I became more comfortable with the idea, and I cared for her from a young age for an extended period.

Those skills came in handy as my wife and I had another little girl only a year after our first daughter was born. I stepped in, sucked it up, and, as a dad, learned how to take care of my kids for long stretches.

I came into fatherhood believing that women were just inherently better at taking care of their kids. As I sit here now, I believe that dads and moms have different strengths and weaknesses as parents, but overall can care for their children on about the same level.

My point in relaying these life events is to tell you that you need to have evidence of caring for your children for long periods. This means caring for them when you are home and coming up with transportation and care solutions while you are working. Do you have a daycare center close to your home? Do you have a family to support you and the kids? Are your kids close with your family?

What is actually in the best interests of your child?

The bottom line is that the judge will look to what is in your child’s best interests before making a decision on which parent will have the ability to determine the primary residence of your child. The factors that I mentioned above will all be considered along with other factors like who offers a more stable home environment, what your child’s particular needs are, and whether or not either parent has displayed a history of violent or abusive behavior.

The best interests standard is purposefully subjective and gives the judge a lot of authority to decide using whatever factors they believe are most important. The judge will put the amount of weight on the evidence they choose to.

Whatever decision the judge comes to, you or the child’s mother will be assessed a visitation schedule if you are not named the primary conservator of your child. In Texas, a Standard Possession Order effectively gives you something close to a “50/50” time of possession, primarily if you are awarded an Expanded Standard Possession Order.

Keep this in mind as you negotiate with the mother in a case. It is not the end of the discussion if you agree or settle on this arrangement. As we discussed earlier, you can always come back later if you believe the circumstances have changed enough to merit a modification of your prior court order.

Prepare your case

Keep a log or journal of your thoughts and experiences on this subject to discuss with an attorney if you hire one to proceed on a modification, Divorce, or child custody case. Solid evidence that backs your arguments can be a game-changer. The more organized you are, the more successful you are likely to be in your case.

Questions on child custody and divorce cases from a father’s perspective? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC

If you take interest in pursuing a divorce, child custody, or modification case, please consider contacting the attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC. We offer free consultations with licensed family law attorneys six days a week. From Beaumont to Katy, we represent fathers like you interested in maximizing their time with their children. It would be an honor to speak to you about your particular situation, and we hope to hear from you.

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