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Viewing a custody case through the eyes of a father

When considering a child custody or divorce case, the issues contained in these legal matters can have potentially significant impacts on the lives of the mothers and fathers involved in them. Once it has been established that you, as the father, are the legally recognized father of the child, your rights and duties about your child are on par with that of the child's mother.

In my years of being a family law attorney in Texas, the issue that I have run into is that this legal reality does not always match up with what Texas fathers feel is the case for them. From what I have experienced, fathers almost always feel like they are at a disadvantage regarding conservatorship and child custody matters. The perception commonly held is that mothers get the leg up when it comes to determining where a child will live primarily and that the father, as a result, will have to pay an arm and a leg in child support because of it.

I suppose the relevant question, then, would be to ask how true this is and how it will impact you and your child custody case or divorce. The attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC, would like to devote some time to explore the father's role in a child custody case in Texas.

The relationship that many fathers have with their children is changing

Gone are the days where, across the board, fathers go to work for eight hours a day to provide for their families. Women have taken on a more significant presence in the professional world, and with it, the relationship between fathers, mothers, and their children have changed.

Whether rearing children or providing an income for the family, both the mother and father can be expected to assist in either area. Your opinion on whether or not this is ultimately a good thing is not especially relevant here. What is relevant is how this truth has changed how courts view custody cases and the fathers that are parties to them.

Courts are starting to view men/fathers as more capable and therefore more worthy of winning primary conservatorship of their children. Primary conservatorship is when a parent has the right to determine their child's primary residence and collect child support from the other parent.

If you were never married to your child's mother, does this make a difference?

If you were never married to your child's mother, then you should know that your rights are equal to those men who were married at one time to their child's mother. The critical difference is that married men are presumed to be the legal father of a child born to the man's wife during their marriage. If you are not married to your child's mother, you must acknowledge paternity to give your child the legal rights and duties that a married man automatically gets because he is married to the mother of his child.

If you are married to a pregnant woman and do not believe the child to be yours, you can attempt to rebut the presumption by providing evidence to a court that you are not the child's biological father.

Attempting to become the primary conservator of a child

If you are in the process of going through a divorce or child custody case with the mother of your child, it is not a foregone conclusion that your child will end up living primarily with their mother. This is a mistake that otherwise qualified fathers make at the beginning of their case.

Many fathers will cede control of their family home to their wife or girlfriend in exchange for the assurance that the child will be safe from harm in the father's absence. Not wanting to cause any more trouble, many good fathers will give in and accept a secondary role in parenting their children.

Do not be one of these fathers unless your choice is to do so. It is not a given that you will not win primary conservatorship in a court case against the child's mother. With this in mind, do not automatically give up on remaining in your family home. If you want to keep the children with you primarily, a considerable leg up is to stay in the house. Once you leave, you are giving a tremendous advantage to the mother.

A court will consider your history of parenting your child, the skills you have acquired, your work schedule, and other issues like these when determining which parent will end up being the primary conservator of your child. I will note that most child custody and divorce cases settle outside of court because fathers will typically not even consider whether or not they want to be the child's primary conservator. This isn't because fathers love their children less- it has more to do with fathers not wanting to "rock the boat," in my opinion. If you believe that you provide a better chance for your child to succeed in life, then you should not settle for being a part-time or weekend parent.

Joint Managing Conservatorship

Joint managing conservatorship is most commonly the structure of sharing rights and duties set up for parents in contested legal cases in Texas. The rights, duties, and responsibilities of a child are essentially split equally between you and the child's mother. The special rights that the primary conservator gets vs. a possessory conservator are two that we have already touched on: the right to determine the primary residence of your child as well as the right to receive child support.

Decision-making ability on essential topics like religion, education, healthcare, and others are not commonly thought of as being at stake in a child custody case or divorce but are just as relevant as actual time with your child. Being able to have a say in where your child attends school, what church she worships in, and what medical procedures can be performed on her is at stake in these cases as well.

The effort you show usually equals your levels of success in a child custody or divorce case.

If you are not immediately successful in winning the primary conservatorship of your child, it is best to take what you have been awarded by a court and make the most of it. Take advantage of every period of possession that you are awarded. Be on time to pick your child up and be on time when releasing your child to their mother. You may not be in a position right now to win primary conservatorship of your child, but use this time to build a stronger case, so down the line, you may be able to.

Taking a keen interest in your child's academic performance as well as involvement in their extracurricular activities is not only good for you but good for your child. Do not shy away from caring for your child, either. If you struggle with caring for your child on long weekends, you will likely not win primary conservatorship.

Are you seeking more information on winning the primary conservatorship of your child as a father? Come back to read part two of our series of blog posts on this subject.

The attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC, have more to share with you on this vital subject, and we hope that you will return to our website tomorrow to read more.

In the meantime, if you have questions for us, we are happy to take the time to answer them. Did you know that we offer free of charge consultations with one of our licensed family law attorneys? It's true. Our staff can schedule a consultation six days a week here in our office. We represent clients across southeast Texas and would be honored to do the same for you and your family. Talk to us about setting up a meeting, and let us show you why our attorneys and staff are second to none in the field of Texas family law offices.

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