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How Much Does a Custody Lawyer Cost in Texas?

The primary factor that often dissuades people from hiring an attorney for a family law case is the cost. Within any case, there exists a spectrum of potential outcomes, ranging from great to bad. Naturally, individuals aim to avoid unfavorable outcomes and strive for the best possible resolution. In most instances, having legal representation can significantly enhance your prospects in a child custody case. Attributes such as experience, expertise, and a compassionate approach are hallmarks of attorneys at the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. However, one pertinent question remains: How much does a custody lawyer charge?

Establishing Paternity: Crucial Steps for Unmarried Fathers

Establishing paternity is crucial for unmarried fathers. Despite its apparent simplicity, it鈥檚 often complex. If you father a child out of wedlock, there鈥檚 no automatic presumption of paternity. Consequently, from the child鈥檚 birth, you lack the rights and responsibilities of a married father. This includes decision-making authority, support obligations, and visitation privileges. Therefore, you must go through some additional steps to get all of that in place for yourself and your child.

Firstly, by establishing legal paternity, you can have your name added to your child鈥檚 birth certificate. Next, you can do something to protect your right to have a legal relationship with your child. Establishing paternity eliminates any chance for another man to challenge your paternity. You will have the right to care for your child and make decisions for him. Before this process begins your relationship with your child is only biological. That does not carry with it any benefits from a legal standpoint.

Naming you as the legal father benefits the mother of your child in several ways. Having a father assisting with raising a small child brings peace of mind to the mother. Especially when it comes to taking care of an infant, she could use the help. Even if not immediately recognized as a benefit, having a father鈥檚 help can improve both the mother鈥檚 and the child鈥檚 quality of life.

Another benefit for your child鈥檚 mother is being able to have child support ordered. This is probably the first subject on the minds of moms and dads as a new baby is born and a child custody case is around the corner. Courts can order child support, visitation, custody, medical support, and determine conservatorship rights once paternity is confirmed. These are the essential elements that come with establishing the parent-child relationship. Therefore, ensure you are organized and prepared to proceed with a paternity case once your child is born. If you cannot establish paternity through an Acknowledgment of Paternity, you鈥檒l need to do so through a court case.

Let鈥檚 not overlook the benefits that go to your child when you establish legal paternity to him. His identity may not seem important to him now, but it will largely be shaped by who his parents are. If he does not know his father and your family then part of his identity will be missing. To establish a lasting emotional bond with your child, it鈥檚 essential to first form a legal bond through paternity. This ensures your rights are legally recognized. It allows you to consistently spend time with your child and play a central role in their upbringing.

What are the different ways that you can establish paternity?

There is more than one way for you to establish paternity concerning your child. If you and your child鈥檚 mother are unmarried at the time of your child鈥檚 birth, the law does not automatically recognize you as the father.聽Here is how you can go about establishing paternity concerning your child.

Acknowledgment of Paternity

The simplest way to do this is via an Acknowledgment of Paternity form. As a biological father, seek the opportunity to sign the Acknowledgment of Paternity. However, simply signing the Acknowledgment of Paternity form with your child鈥檚 mother establishes paternity. Keep in mind, if multiple men could be the child鈥檚 father, DNA testing and a full paternity case through the courts will be necessary.

You can sign an Acknowledgment of Paternity at the hospital when your child is born. The hospital typically provides this form along with the child鈥檚 birth certificate information. After completing it, you and the mother can hand it back to the nurse. She will submit it to the hospital staff responsible for handling and processing these forms with the State of Texas. Submitting the Acknowledgment of Paternity establishes parental rights for you, but does not extend beyond that.聽You would still need to go to court to establish custody, visitation, and conservatorship rights and duties. However, if all you are looking to do at this moment is to establish paternity then the Acknowledgment of Paternity is the way to go.

Court Order Process and Options

You can also establish paternity through a court order. To establish paternity, you can hire a private attorney and file a motion or contact the Office of the Attorney General to do so.聽The Office of the Attorney General represents the state of Texas and does not represent you or your child. When you go through the court one of the first things that they will do to verify paternity is to ask you for a sample of your DNA. If you and your co-parent agree on most of the issues of your case, then you can agree to attend a review meeting at an office for the Office of the Attorney General.

Keep in mind that if you go to a meeting like this with a representative from the Office of the Attorney General there is no guarantee that you will walk out of there with an agreement. There are many reasons for this. Settling issues like paternity first is crucial, as they can make reaching a settlement difficult or directly oppose your interests.聽Or, there may be special needs involving the child that make settling on child support more difficult than in other circumstances. You may be difficult to negotiate with. The child鈥檚 mother may be difficult to negotiate with.

Court Proceedings When Agreement Isn鈥檛 Possible

In a situation where you and the child鈥檚 other parent are unable to agree on child support, you obviously won鈥檛 be able to come to an agreement on anything else regarding a child custody case. It is then that you must go to court and have a judge decide the issues for you based on the evidence presented by both sides. This is a tough way to go because the judge may not know very much about your child or the two of you. However, in Texas, this is the court鈥檚 procedure. If you鈥檙e concerned about court appearances or relying on a judge for orders, your best strategy might be to negotiate an agreement with your co-parent before the court date.

For instance, if you both hire attorneys then you could talk with your attorney about scheduling mediation. Mediation offers a chance for both parties, their attorneys, and a neutral mediator to discuss the issues and potentially reach a settlement.聽Mediation is informal in the sense that it occurs outside of court so there will be less pressure on you and your co-parent. Usually, parties find that the more relaxed atmosphere of mediation coupled with the willingness of the parties to work together in that environment makes it a better place to come up with decisions than a courtroom.

Above all else, you need to go to court if you receive a piece of paper that states a hearing date is upcoming. Even if you don鈥檛 believe you are the child鈥檚 father, believe that you were given notice incorrectly, or even see that the court date is the following day. Not going to court should not be an option for you even if that means having to talk to your boss to get permission or to move around your schedule to accommodate the court date. The reason why I am so adamant about going to this court hearing is that a lot can go on in a hearing like this that you may not like and may not be in your best interests- or that of the child involved in the case.

First, a court can establish you as the legal father to a child even if you are not present. This may sound crazy to you, but it does happen, and it can happen to you. The child鈥檚 mother can present whatever evidence she chooses when you are not there. If that evidence points towards you being the father to the child, then odds are decent that you will be named as the legal father to a child even if you are not the biological father. Without you there to present counter-evidence and rebut her arguments you are putting yourself in danger of being named the father to a child who is not yours.

Impact on Child Support, Custody, and More

Other subjects can be decided as well once you are legally named as the father to this child. Child support, child custody, conservatorship, medical support- the list goes on and on. The whole game is wide open once a court names you as the child鈥檚 father. This entire discussion begins and ends with paternity. If you can prevent yourself from being named as the father of the child, then you can prevent yourself from having child support assessed against you. You will be on the hook for child support regardless of whether you eventually have your paternity overturned in a later case.

For instance, let鈥檚 say that you don鈥檛 attend a hearing with the judge and the child鈥檚 mother successfully makes an argument that you are her child鈥檚 father. During the hearing, the court assesses child support against you and notifies you that you must pay $750 per month to the child鈥檚 mom. Despite being named as the legal father, you know you are not the child鈥檚 father, so you choose not to pay the child support.聽What could happen?

Importance of Attending Hearings

Failing to attend the first hearing and dispute paternity can result in owing back child support even if paternity is later overturned. This underscores the importance of preventing oneself from being named as the father initially. Once named, actively working to overturn the designation becomes crucial.

It probably will not matter if you have been paying for items that your child needs like diapers and formula instead of paying child support directly through the state of Texas. In the future, if the court assesses child support against you, you will still be obligated to pay court-ordered child support through the Office of the Attorney General. Continuing to make direct payments to your child鈥檚 mother may be viewed as gifts, rather than fulfilling your child support obligation.

Next, if you have a court date, we have already discussed how important it is for you to attend. Even if your court date is at 9:00 AM you should not assume that you will be able to have your hearing at that time and then be back to work before lunch. On the contrary, courts can handle cases in various ways, and it鈥檚 unlikely that your case will be resolved quickly. When discussing time off with your employer for court attendance, make sure to clarify that you may be gone all day, as it鈥檚 possible or even likely.

Rights and Duties as a Parent in Family Court

In family court, the term 鈥渃ustody鈥 is connected to the legal term 鈥渃onservatorship,鈥. This pertains to your rights and duties as a parent, including decision-making and caregiving responsibilities. While parents who have never been to court still have these rights and duties, theirs won鈥檛 be listed in a court order like yours.

The 鈥渂est interest鈥 standard guides the family court judge in making decisions regarding your child. It considers their emotional and physical needs, your parenting abilities compared to your co-parent鈥檚, and your child鈥檚 preferences. Additionally, your home鈥檚 stability will be compared to that of your co-parent.

Throughout this process, you can work with an attorney. While not required by law, hiring one is advantageous for you to consider. The attorneys at the Law Office of Bryan Fagan are equipped to assist you and your family. The first step towards building a relationship with our office is to speak to one of our attorneys regarding a free-of-charge consultation.

Conclusion

In navigating family law cases, the cost of legal representation often emerges as a primary concern for individuals. However, it鈥檚 essential to recognize that the potential outcomes of such cases vary widely, from highly favorable to less desirable results. While the prospect of hiring an attorney may seem daunting, it can significantly impact the trajectory of a child custody case. Attorneys like those at the Law Office of Bryan Fagan possess the expertise and dedication needed to advocate effectively for their clients. Despite the financial considerations, the potential benefits of legal representation in achieving a more favorable outcome cannot be overstated. Understanding how much a custody lawyer charges is crucial in making informed decisions about legal representation. Ultimately, weighing the costs against the potential advantages underscores the importance of seeking qualified legal counsel in family law matters.

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