An age-old concern that fathers have as they enter into a family law case is whether they stand a chance when it comes to child custody issues. For all the concerns that a family can have heading into a child custody case this is probably the one that we at the Law Office of Bryan Fagan encounter the most often. We hear it from fathers all the time, some variation of the question: Do I stand a chance, and should I even bother to bring a child custody case? The assumption is that mothers are preferred to fathers when it comes to custody. Is this true? What sort of concerns should you have if you are a father who is about to participate in a child custody case?
Let’s approach these questions from this perspective right off the bat. If you are a dad who has these concerns, then you are asking the right questions. Wandering into a family law case is possible. Very possible. Many men (and women) get involved in a family law case and have no idea how to get themselves out. These folks end up wandering around in the metaphorical dark before having to settle for a bad deal that is not in their best interests or the best interests of their child. However, you are already asking relevant questions. That's a good sign!
Now that we have established that you are asking good questions the next issue that we must tackle is whether you are really in a bad spot considering you are your child’s father and not their mother. Many people in your shoes would just ask the question to shrug their shoulders and just keep moving along. However, you are not that person. You are the sort of person who asks a good question and then doesn't stop until he's found the answer to that question. We think that today's blog post from the Law Office of Bryan Fagan is going to provide you with the answer to that question.
When you become involved in a child custody or divorce case with children then I think it is normal for your mind to drift towards negative questions. The thought of losing time with your children because of becoming involved in a child custody or divorce case is an intimidating proposition. That you may lose time with your children due to a factor that is out of your control is an even more frustrating issue to go through. Let’s establish a few things about child custody and family law cases to lay the groundwork for our discussion today.
First, the Texas Family Code does not give preference to men or women, fathers, or mothers when it comes to determining custody issues. Issues like custody, conservatorship, visitation, and possession are decided based on the best interests of your child, the specific circumstances of your case, and the history of you and your co-parent when it comes to parenting your children. The Family Code does not allow a judge to judge your circumstances based on who is the mom and who is the dad. From this perspective, you should know in advance that the law is on your side at least in this regard.
Look at your history and get a glimpse into your future
Dads tend to be pessimistic about custody issues because they see other dads come out of a child custody or divorce case with orders from the court that tend to favor mom. Why is that? What are the areas of a case that I think is most important to parents? The first area that dads and moms tend to care the most about is time with their kids. How much time are you going to be able to gain with your children because of your family law case? What sort of custody, possession, or visitation do you think you can win?
The default setting in a family law case that involves children is for parents to have a joint managing conservatorship with their children. A joint managing conservatorship means that you will be sharing conservatorship rights with your co-parent. The sharing starts with the rights and duties that you have concerning your children. Many parents, fathers especially, concern themselves primarily with the time that they will be able to spend with their children. This is understandable since you may have experienced losing time with your children recently for the first time in your life. Rather than being able to spend as much time as you want with your kids, you may already be sharing time with your co-parent on an unofficial basis. So, it makes sense why time with your kids will be at the front of your mind when it comes to negotiations in your case.
In some situations, a sole managing conservatorship may be appropriate. In a sole managing conservatorship, you and your co-parent will still be sharing time with your children. However, the time and rights/duties that you share will be skewed in favor of either you or your co-parent. One parent becomes the sole managing conservator, and the other parent becomes the possessory conservator. The sole managing conservator will likely be able to make decisions on behalf of your child on an exclusive or independent basis much more frequently than under a joint managing conservatorship. This type of scenario occurs in situations where a parent may have a problem with drugs or alcohol, or if family violence has been an issue in the past. It reflects a circumstance where you or your co-parent are unable to make good decisions for yourself or your child. While a sole managing conservatorship arrangement is not likely in your case it is possible given that the best interests of your child are what matters the most and not your feelings.
Conservatorship refers to rights and duties concerning your child. Conservatorship is a major component of a child custody case. Custody is a term that we hear about all the time in the context of a family law case. It is a term that everyone- judges and attorneys alike- use frequently. However, you may be surprised to learn that the term custody does not come up in the Texas Family Code even once. Rather, it is a term that is used as a general reference to the world of Texas family law cases involving children. Custody cases come in all shapes and sizes and are even a part of divorce cases. Whether you are going through a divorce with children or a child custody case that is a standalone matter, we need to be able to talk about why these cases matter and why you as a dad need to be prepared to take on whatever challenges may be in front of you.
When you first approach the subject of a child custody case, what do you think about it? You may be contemplating a worst-case scenario of some sort. However, what you should be thinking about is how to develop a plan with goals in mind for your case. It can be intimidating to go into a situation where you think that the scales are tipped against you. You may have heard other parents talk about how family law cases tend to favor moms and we are here to help you with that notion. For one, the law, as we have already established does not favor mothers over fathers. What family court judges tend to look at, and what the best interests of your child may be supported by is looking at your history as a parent and the history of your co-parent and then making some statements based on that history.
For one, you as a parent can work towards bettering the life of your child. The goal with your child should be to provide him or her with the greatest opportunity at achieving success possible given your circumstances. To that extent, your history as a parent will play a role when you become involved in a child custody case. Much of the time, your history as a parent may have been controlled not only by the circumstances that you and your co-parent found yourselves in but also by the needs of your employer and your skills as a parent. For instance, if you are a father then it is more likely that you worked outside the home than a mother would. What does this mean for your family law case? If nothing else, it means that your child's mother likely has had a greater opportunity than you must spend time with your child than you. Again, this is not to say that you have not been a good father to your child or anything like that. However, it does mean that when it comes to your child custody case a judge would only look backward in time when assessing Parenting roles.
What can you do to prepare for a child custody case as A father in Texas?
The key to achieving success in a Texas family law case is to be able to properly prepare for whatever it is that comes your way during the case. First, you should have a basic understanding of the child custody and visitation laws in Texas. For the most part, parents agreed to something that looks like a standard possession order for child visitation purposes. A standard possession order allows for the primary conservator to have possession of the children approximately 60% of the time while the non-primary conservator has possession approximately 40% of the time. If your case were to go before a family court judge the judge would likely order something resembling a standard possession order. However, you and your child's mother can negotiate throughout the case and achieve your own desired outcomes when it comes to this subject. When you negotiate with your child's mother you can come up with outcomes that you would not ordinarily be able to. You all can construct a reality for yourselves as far as custody and possession are concerned that otherwise would not be possible were you to rely upon a family court judge to come up with the confines for your case.
Another recommendation that we can make to you at this time would be to consider hiring an experienced family law attorney before engaging in a contested family law case. Even though you may be comfortable with the family laws in Texas as far as your knowledge of them there are different elements to a family law case beyond simply knowing the law. You need to be able to apply the law correctly, make arguments in court, file your case, meet all necessary deadlines, and be able to prepare for mediation. And these are just a few of the issues that come up in family law cases that you need to be prepared for. Having an attorney by your side for these various stages of your case can be a distinct advantage over a parent who does not have an attorney. In circumstances where your child's mother already has a lawyer, it is essential that you also have representation. If this is a subject that you are concerned about then please reach out to our office today to arrange for a free-of-charge consultation with one of our experienced family law attorneys.
The organization is important in a Texas family law case. Remember that a family court judge will make decisions on behalf of your child based on what is in their best interest. If you have a hearing before the judge you need to have your ducks in a row as far as what your daily schedule is and what resources you have available to you to care for your child daily. You will also likely need to produce, at some point, documents to verify your income, relationship with your children, employment, and your ability otherwise to care for them. You can have a conversation with your attorney about how to best prepare for courtroom experiences. The more preparation you can do before your case begins or on your own after the case begins the better. This can save you both time and money.
If possible, you should be willing to work out problems directly with your child's mother. Ultimately, this is how you and your child's mother are going to need to solve problems together. You are not always going to be able to have an attorney on retainer to solve issues for you. It is also impractical for you to have to go to court every time there is a disagreement between you or your child's mother. With that said, it may take some time for the two of you to learn how to work well together. Even if the two of you do not agree on every subject under the sun you can hopefully agree on how important it is for you to be able to work towards the best interests of your child and to set aside your differences.
While we are on that subject, it is completely normal for you to want to protect your child from the difficulties and stresses associated with this family law case. However, you need to be able to balance that desire with the need for you to keep your child up to speed with the events of the case. You can approach this subject from any angle you would like but you and your child's mother need to be able to help your child through this process no matter their age or maturity level. Doing so will assist your child in being able to manage the change that comes about because of a divorce or child custody case. Presenting a united front with your child's mother is the best way to do this. Ideally, you and your child's mother can discuss a lot of these issues together and discuss additionally how to approach them with your children as a team.
A family law case is certainly a challenge. Even though fathers face unique challenges of their own within the context of a family law case it is not something that you should back away from. Remember that the well-being of your child is at stake and he or she needs you to be a part of their life. With that said, the more preparation that you can do before the beginning of your case the better off your child will be in the long run. Reading through blog posts like this and working to learn as much as you can about the law in Texas can help you position yourself well as you head into a family law case.
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