Parental rights and responsibilities

Child custody issues in a Texas family law case can be among the most tumultuous and hard-fought of any that you can encounter in family court. Deciding on issues ranging from conservatorship to visitation to child custody can be an emotional journey that you need to go on as a parent. That you are going through these difficult times as part of a divorce or a breakup with your partner only adds to the stress associated with the process. Your responsibilities as a parent in this regard are to do the best that you can for your child and to present yourself as the best possible recipient of expanded rights as a parent.

Before you can have child custody issues determined you need to first work to establish paternity rights if you are a father. To be sure, you have a lot on your mind as you start to consider a paternity case. You may find yourself in a position where you are not sure whether you are the father to the child but presume that you are. In that case, you should understand the basics of Texas paternity issues and how they relate to topics in child custody. Before you can even consider the custody issues that impact you, you must be able to confirm paternity first.

Paternity Issues in a child custody case

Married men are presumed to be the father of a child born to their wives during their marriage or within 300 days of their divorce. If you are a married man who is reading this blog post there is not much you need to do, likely, when it comes to establishing paternity in conjunction with a family law case. The law has presumed that you are the father of your children and have been since they were born. The question that we need to answer is what the status of your parental rights is if you are a man who was not married to your child’s mother at the time your child was born. In that case, do you need to do anything regarding parental rights?

The short answer to that question is, yes, you need to be able to establish paternity in connection with your child before you can proceed to issues related to custody, visitation, possession, or child support. Biologically you are the father to your child but there is another question altogether if you are the legal father to a child. Biological paternity is important to establish legal paternity, but it is not a given. You need to be able to take steps to assert your parental rights as a father. There are multiple ways to do this and some are more labor-intensive than others.

Starting when your child was born you could have signed what is known as an Acknowledgment of Paternity. An Acknowledgment of Paternity (AOP). An AOP can even be filled out by both you and your child’s mother before the baby is born. Many times, the AOP is handed out at the hospital after the baby’s birth. If it is signed by you and your co-parent, then you will need to send the document to the Office of Vital Statistics in Austin. The AOP would be processed, and you would be adjudicated to be the child’s father. At that point, you would have the same rights and duties concerning your child under the law that a married father does.

However, you may no longer be in a position where signing an AOP is an option for you. In that case, you should consider filing a paternity suit. A paternity lawsuit can be filed by you or your co-parent to have you (or another man) adjudicated as the legal father of your child. This is a court-based process where you will need to attend at least one hearing, be DNA tested, and submit paperwork. The AOP route would have been the simpler one for you to take but that may not be an option for you anymore. While a paternity lawsuit takes some effort it does not mean that you can skip over it or put it off. You need to file this suit as soon as you can after the birth of your child to establish paternity.

If you and your co-parent agree that you are the father of your child, then you can file an agreed motion to establish paternity. This can streamline the process of paternity establishment. Otherwise, if paternity is contested (either you or your child’s mother don’t agree that you are the father) then multiple hearings will be hand, DNA testing will be submitted, and evidence admitted into the record for the judge to consider when it comes to establishing paternity. Once a decision is made by the judge as to paternity you can move forward with all the other issues in your case when it comes to custody.

As with any legal process, some potential potholes and problems can arise along the way. Even if you are the father to your child and there are no major issues in your mind that will arise it is still a good idea to work with an experienced family law attorney. Getting the paperwork filed on time, understanding your responsibilities as a father and a host of other issues also come in a family law case. The attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan are uniquely suited to assist you during this process. For a free-of-charge consultation with one of our licensed family law attorneys please do not hesitate to contact us today.

What is child custody?

Child custody amounts to two issues that are both important. First, there is legal custody of your child. These are the rights, duties, visitation times, child support obligations, and everything else that goes along with a child custody case. In short, these are the components of being a parent that can be set out in writing and established as a matter of going to court. A court order is the result of a child custody case- whether it is part of a divorce or a stand-alone child custody case. You can look to the orders outlined in that document as your instructions, limitations, and explanation of all the rights that you have concerning your child.

On the other hand, there is physical custody of your child which is just as important. Being able to have physical custody of your child means that you will be able to have your child in your possession for specific periods as established by the child custody orders. When your child is with you that means you have rights and duties to care for your child and make decisions for your child. These are established, also, in your child custody orders and will depend a great deal on your circumstances and the outcome of your child custody case. Regardless, if you are a parent who has struggled to have consistent possession of your child having the ability to do so can be a terrific change and right for you to possess of your child.

Child custody orders help parents by allowing them to have a predictable and steady schedule of visitation. Think about what the possession schedules have been like with your child so far in the life of your child. If you are not married to your co-parent, then you may have had limited contact with your little one for a huge chunk of their life. When you thought you had a possession period lined up your co-parent may have called you at the last minute with an excuse as to why it ’couldn’t happen. Or, you may have scheduled work for yourself only to receive a call from your co-parent asking you to take your child for a weekend. This is not ideal for you as a person who wants to be prepared for the possession of your child and would like to be able to work to provide for that child.

This sort of schedule is not ideal for your child, either. He or she craves stability and consistency- even if he or she is too young to know that. This means that your child needs to be able to know that at the end of the week that he or she will be able to see you. By going through the process of having a formalized court order that means he or she will know the next time they can see you. The disappointment that you feel in not being able to see your child is felt by your child, as well. When that happens, you lose a bonding opportunity. These will impact the future relationship you have with your child, as well.

Child support- the low down on financial issues

Child support is a tricky subject. On the one hand, the way that child support is calculated in most family law cases is straightforward. The net monthly income of the paying parent is added up and then a percentage is multiplied against that number to come up with child support. That child support is paid monthly. Simple, right? Well, not so fast. It can be that simple, but it can also be a subject that is made complex due to factors like the age of your child, physical needs, mental needs, and any problems that can come about as a result of calculating your net monthly income. Let’s explore some of these issues today.

For this discussion, we are going to assume that you are the parent who will be paying child support.t It’s just simpler to write about child support as the parent who is expected to pay support rather than receive it. Paying child support makes sense. If you see your child less that means that you are probably paying less money towards the support of your child. As a result, you will be expected to pay some amount of money to your co-parent to even up the playing field, so to speak.

First, you need to figure out what your net monthly income is so you can submit that to the court. For those of you who have 9-5 hourly/salary jobs then this should not take much of an effort. An experienced family law attorney with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan can help you to figure out what to take out of your gross income to figure out what your net monthly income is. This is an easy thing to do when you have one job and one source of income. However, for those of you who work multiple jobs, have self-employment income and other streams of revenue then it is even more important that you hire an attorney to work with you. The fact is that this is where you can either figure out an accurate number for child support or be put in a position where you are ordered to pay more in child support than you should have been.

There are sometimes extenuating circumstances that are involved with child support. Does your child have a physical or mental issue that can impact their ability to go to school or even go about their daily lives? In that case, you may be ordered to pay more than the standard amount in child support. By the same token, if you have a humungous income that allows you to afford to pay more in child support then you may be ordered to pay child support that is higher than a standard amount.

Ultimately, if you are paying child support know that you and your co-parent can work through these issues yourselves without ever having to weigh in on the subject with a judge. A judge will only set child support if you and your co-parent are unable to come up with a number yourselves or if the judge believes the number that you and your co-parent came up with is not in the best interests of your child (which does not happen often). Otherwise, you and your co-parent are given ample time to negotiate on this subject together.

Conservatorship rights and duties

Where parental rights and responsibilities are most acutely impacted is regarding conservatorship issues. Conservatorship means having a legal obligation to care for another person as well as the right to make decisions on behalf of that person. When we talk about child custody issues in a family law case what we are talking about are conservatorship issues. Conservatorship just doesn’t roll off the tongue like custody, so we use that term more frequently. Conservatorship issues and how they are determined in your case will factor into every discussion we have had in today’s blog post, however.

The default setting in a child custody case is for parents to be named as joint managing conservators. This means that you will share the rights and duties concerning your child in an even fashion. Decisions regarding their schooling, medical care, and other parts of your child’s life will be a joint decision made between you and your co-parent. Some rights and duties are independent- which means that you and your co-parent can make decisions for your child while he or she is in your possession. Very few (if any) rights are exclusive, meaning that only one of you can decide on that particular subject.

This is a part of a child custody case that despite its importance is oftentimes overlooked. Making decisions for your child is at the core of your ability to parent your child. If you cannot exercise these sorts of basic rights, then you are limited in terms of your ability to parent. Working with an experienced family law attorney when it comes to figuring out how to divide these rights and duties is crucial. Not the least of the reasons why they are important is that the ability to spend time with your children is directly tied to conservatorship.

There are many moving pieces to a child custody case. Even before you can get involved in a custody case you may need to confirm paternity in a separate lawsuit. All of this means that you need to have a plan with a strategy designed to accomplish goals within the case. The best way to do this is to work with an experienced attorney who has your back and has helped people just like you accomplish their goals inside and outside the courtroom.

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 to learn more about the world of Texas family law as well as about how your family’s circumstances may be impacted by the filing of a child custody or divorce case.

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