It is completely normal and rational for you to want to know how long a child custody case lasts in Texas. No one who is part of any family law case is under the illusion that the case will be enjoyable. Most people will go to the other extreme and make the family law case out to be something that it is not: a year's long process that will bankrupt you and divide your family permanently. Neither of these scenarios is likely to play out in your divorce. The far more likely outcome is that your divorce or child custody case does prove to be complicated but ultimately is salt and completed within a relatively short period.
Your role in the process is to understand how to navigate the case best while maintaining your sanity and relationship with your children. I have seen many people go through child custody cases without tangible goals and without a path to achieve those goals. This is a recipe for disaster and is something that is, Luckily, very much avoidable. Instead of entering into a child custody case with no goals in mind and no idea how to get from point A to point B, I recommend paying close attention to the information we talk about in today's blog post. I will do my best to help you understand the timeline of a child custody case and how best to begin working towards accomplishable and reasonable goals.
What is a child custody case?
A child custody case is a family law case that touches on conservatorships, child support, Visitation for any post-divorce matter like a modification or enforcement. As you can tell, child custody cases can end up being quite diverse and can run the gamut as far as outcomes as well. Your role as a potential child custody case participant is to identify your cases and understand your role within the case. Doing so will help you better envision where cases are going and how best to create and accomplish goals.
Being intentional with your actions during a child custody case is as important as being intentional in any area of your life. Rather than drifting aimlessly through a child custody case and merely hoping that everything goes OK, my recommendation would be to develop a clear strategy for your case based on your circumstances and do everything you can to surround yourself with people who will help you accomplish those goals. For me, if I am a person in your shoes and I have little knowledge of family law, my first objective would be to get an attorney by my side who not only is willing to take on your case and its responsibility but has experience in success in having done so for other people.
The term child custody does not come up even once in the Texas family code. Rather, what many of us think about when we consider child custody is more accurately described as conservatorship. Conservatorships have to do with the rights and duties of apparent about their children. In simple terms, he was a parent to have a right to make decisions for your children regarding their health, well-being, education, and living situation. You must provide the basics of education, health care, food, shelter, and clothing. Parents share equally in their rights and duties until told otherwise by a court.
Suppose you are a parent who has not seen your child in weeks or months because their other parent will not allow you to see them, then you know firsthand that the statement I just made is not true all the time. While your ability to raise your child is technically speaking on par with that of your child's other parent, they may change the circumstances in your life to the point where you cannot take advantage of the rights provided to you under Texas law. As a result, you may be considering a child custody case to get into writing those rights and duties once and for all.
Child custody cases can occur between parents who were never married and had a child but are also components of a divorce. A divorce is a child custody case if children are present in addition to a formalized division of the community estate. A child custody case without married parents means that there will be no property considerations made in any family law case. Still, a division of custody rights and duties will be done. This is important as it can be confusing to somehow child custody in a divorce case are similar and dissimilar.
Finally, I would point you towards information regarding child custody cases having to do with disputes on matters related to parents and children after a divorce. One of the unfortunate realities of family law cases is that a divorce may be the beginning of your experience worldwide, which is Texas's only law. For instance, some portion of your child custody orders in a final divorce decree is applicable after the divorce ends. In this case, you may need to move for a modification to have your court orders better reflect your current circumstances or changes that have occurred in the intervening years.
On the other hand, your ex-spouse may have violated your court orders somehow, and you may need to file what is called an enforcement lawsuit against them seeking to enforce the terms of your final decree of divorce. This occurs in circumstances where you were not paid child support; your Visitation rights were not honored by the other parent or a host of other reasons. An enforcement lawsuit seeks to bring these violations of a court order to the attention of a judge for them to issue rulings granting you relief in some regard.
Do you need an attorney for a child custody case?
Now that we have covered what a child custody case is, we can more intelligently determine whether or not you need an attorney for your case. To answer this question, we need to consider what advantages having an attorney poses against not having a lawyer. The major advantage that having an attorney presents to you in a child custody case is that an attorney has experience handling legal matters, whereas you do not. You can stay up all night reading the Texas family code, and you can interview countless people that have gone through the child custody case before you have. All of that work will not equal the experience of an attorney who has been there and done that.
Like anything else, experience matters in the world of family law. Family law cases have their structure and processes that information regarding is hard to come by. On our blog, we do our best to provide you with process information almost as much as we do about information about family law itself. However, all the blog posts in the world cannot adequately prepare you to be a part of a family law process compared to an attorney. A lawyer who works within the world of Texas family law daily will have much more experience in the law and the processes of a case than you do.
With all this talk about experience, I need to point out that there is a difference between an attorney who has experience in handling a family law case and an attorney who expresses willingness to handle your family law case. These are not the same person or attorney. An experienced family law attorney will be able to ask you questions, provide updates on your case, and help you make decisions about where you want your case to go. Appropriate goal setting and intentional acts during the case that are goal-oriented are just a few of the attributes of an experienced family law attorney.
An inexperienced family law attorney lacks the wherewithal to complete these steps. Not only have they likely never tried my case in a family court or representative client in mediation, but she is also ill-equipped to provide you with daily advice, perspective, and guidance. The experience inside and outside the family courts is crucial to your success in a family law case. Please do not assume that because an attorney tells you that they have years of experience in the law, those years have been spent working with clients like yourself in child custody cases.
The reality of the situation is that many attorneys will tell you that they are willing to take on your child custody case, but very few offer the sort of experience you need to be successful. Attorneys, generally speaking, believe that child custody and even divorce cases can be picked up and learned fairly quickly. You will find relatively few attorneys who have a great deal of first-hand experience in child custody cases. Our team of attorneys can all say honestly that our focus is solely on family law cases. Before you consider hiring an attorney, I would ask about their experience level and whether or not your type of case is one they have seen to completion. If the lawyer cannot tell you that they have the experience you need, I would look elsewhere for representation.
What does a child custody case seek to accomplish?
In a typical child custody case, one where you have not been to court previously, the end goal of the case is to create an order that reflects either a mediated settlement agreement or trial as had between you and your child's other parent. Whether you end up going to court or settling your case in mediation, the results of either setting will need to be distilled down to a child custody order. Formally speaking, this document will be known as an order in a suit affecting the parent-child relationship. This document that you, your opposing parent, your attorneys, and the judge will ultimately sign gives you a road map 4 the foreseeable future when it comes to child custody issues.
If you were to file a suit affecting the parent-child relationship, you would be asking a court to render orders regarding child support, Visitation, possession, access, and any other issue germane to your lives. You would identify who your child is, yourself, and your opposing party. That document will be filed with the court and served upon your opposing parent. They would then need to file an answer to your suit affecting the parent-child relationship. from there, your case would begin, and both of you would be able to negotiate the issues together were utilized by the courts if settlements cannot be reached outside of court.
Determining how long a divorce case lasts in Texas is much more simple than determining how long a child custody case may last. The simple truth is that a divorce case must last at least 60 days from the date on which your divorce case is filed in court. From there, we can typically estimate that your divorce would last somewhere between two and six months. There are divorce cases that can run much longer, but from my experience, a standard divorce typically will last no more than six or eight months.
On the other hand, there is no requirement under the law in Texas as to how long a child custody case must last. On the plus side, this means that your child custody case could settle within a couple of weeks of the case being filed in the 1st place. Many times you and your child's other parent will already have an agreement in place that is just in need of a lawyer's hand in drafting the final documents. You and your child's other parents can take the opportunity to negotiate between yourselves about the issues of your case.
One factor that will likely cause your child custody case to finish sooner than a divorce is that you and your opposing parent do not have issues to dispute with one another regarding the property. Your focus will be solely on your children. From a practical standpoint, if you can create a Visitation schedule, determine which parent will be able to decide where your child lives on a full-time basis, and then hammer out child support issues, your case may settle rather quickly.
People run into issues in a child custody case when a mother and father cannot agree on big picture issues like conservatorships rights and duties. For instance, if you all cannot decide which of you should be the primary conservator of your children, then that is a sign that your case may have to go before a judge. This will create a much longer and more expensive child custody case.
Fortunately, if you and your child their parents attend mediation, which you almost certainly will, then you have an opportunity to work with a mediator who can provide you with context and information about your future ability to succeed in the courtroom. A mediator has experience working with your judge and can likely provide you with a preview of what you can expect where you should take your case to a trial. You may feel very confident in your positions right now, but attending mediation could cause you to pull back on your expectations and more strongly consider settling your case rather than proceeding to trial.
This is an important step in your case that can greatly reduce the amount of time that your case lasts. Preparing for and going to trial takes time. Many judges will encourage you to try and settle your case by ordering mediation not only once but sometimes twice or more. It is only after multiple attempts at mediation do some judges allow for a trial to be set. Even if your trial does not take long and the final order can be achieved quickly after the trial, the lengthier case can be made to feel much longer than it lasted.
For that reason, I recommend detail and frequent goal-setting sessions with your attorney at the beginning of the case so that you can plan out objectives and then determine the best path to reach those goals. Help your attorney understand the most important issues to your case, and your attorney can then use that information to negotiate with their countering attorney. This will help you all achieve more equitable results and reduce the time spent in the custody case itself. A child custody case is a means to an end. Do not lose focus on the fact that your post-child custody life can only be reached once your child custody case itself comes to an end.
Questions about the material contained in today's blog post? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan
if you have any questions about the material contained in today's blog post; please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. Our licensed family law attorneys offer free of charge consultations six days a week in person, over the phone, and via video. These consultations are a great way for you to learn more about the world of Texas family law and the circumstances surrounding your particular family law matter.