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How is child custody determined in Texas?

Going through a divorce in Texas means identifying the parts of a case most important to you and your family. Having minor children involved in the divorce creates an element that needs addressing. When it comes to issues related to child custody within a divorce case it can begin to feel like you are balancing many spinning plates at once. How do you keep those plates from crashing to the ground? Can you even do it? 

The Law Office of Bryan Fagan is here to tell you that you can balance these objectives simultaneously. It’s not easy, however. That is where the experienced attorneys from the Law Office of Bryan Fagan come into play. We serve our communities here in Texas with great pride in family courts across the state. Learning how an attorney assists with matters like child support is a big part of why we are here today. 

Once your divorce is filed it is not time to take a breather. Now is the time to develop a plan geared towards achieving specific goals. If that’s not where you are yet, then take heart. There is a great deal for you to gain from today’s blog post. Get comfortable and take in what we share with you. 

If you have questions about what you’ve read today, please contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. We are here to help you learn more about family law in Texas

What does child custody mean?

Child custody is one of those legal terms where just about everyone knows what you’re talking about. However, the term is interesting in that it does not appear in the Texas Family Code. Rather, custody is more of a casual term used to lump together several different family law elements. For our purposes, child custody includes topics as wide-ranging as possession, access, visitation, child support, and a handful of other issues. When a person uses child custody in a family law context it is important to identify which issue is being discussed. 

Conservatorship is a more precise term to refer to the issues of child custody. Conservatorship means rights and duties for your children. These rights and duties create a circumstance where your children are guided by you and your co-parent. However, the rights and duties are not shared equally by the two of you. Rather, most rights and duties are jointly held but can vary from case to case. 

It is important to understand that the more up-to-date you are on the lives of your children the better your outcome is in a divorce. Typically, the parent who has taken the more active role in the lives of the children tends to end up with stronger rights and more time with the kids. This is not always true, however. For a more in-depth opportunity and discussion on your specific family dynamics reach out to the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. Our experienced attorneys would be happy to cover these issues with you in a free-of-charge consultation. 

Best interests of the child’s standard

When considering how to assign rights and duties to you and your co-parent the court does not lift its metaphorical finger into the air to see which way the wind is blowing. Rather, the State of Texas is guided by the best interests of your child. This is known as the best interests of the child standard. This standard seeks to take into consideration a wide range of subjects related to your child’s life. It allows a court to weigh a wide range of factors before coming to conclusions on important subjects. 

Your child’s present needs, their mental well-being, their education, and physical health are just a handful of the factors considered. The best interests of your child are above all served by having a relationship with you and your co-parent. This is the presumption which applies to all child custody cases. Evidence can be presented to counter this presumption, however. It is expected that you and your co-parent are named as joint managing conservators in this case. 

It pays to understand what is in the best interests of your child. Even more than that, you as a parent benefit from understanding that what is in your best interests is not necessarily in the best interests of your child. This realization takes some maturity and patience to come to. 

Physical and mental health of the parents 

Consider your ability to parent versus your co-parent’s when making decisions about child custody matters. This discussion is a continuation of the one we had just a moment ago. The parenting abilities of you and your co-parent are compared in a child custody case. Your strengths and weaknesses. Additionally, your personal histories of involvement with the kids are assessed. 

This also relates to an understanding that your best interests are not always in alignment with your child. For example, it is understandable to want to spend as much time as possible with your child after the divorce. That is a driving factor for many parents and our decision-making. However, just because you want to spend as much time with your child as possible does not mean that is in the best interests of your child. Your child may be better served by living primarily with your co-parent. 

As I mentioned a moment ago, it takes maturity and patience to consider these topics. It is not easy to contemplate your child living with your co-parent. It is even more difficult to understand that your child may be better off in that situation. Considering the specific circumstances of your child and your role as a parent provides you with all the information you need. Coming to an understanding that your child is best with your co-parent primarily is not admitting defeat. Rather, it is accepting what is in his or her best interests. 

Stability and continuity at home

An extension of your own physical and mental health is an assessment of stability at home. One of the starkest differences your child encounters after a divorce is living in two different households. For their entire life, your child knew one home. Now that the divorce is underway, he finds himself in a shared possession circumstance. Not that your child cannot benefit from a situation like this. However, it is an adjustment. Different children react differently to these sorts of circumstances. 

Consider where you are living currently. Do you and your co-parent live together still? There are situations where parents can live together for the duration of the divorce. Sometimes this is brought about by economic necessity when neither of you can move. However, it may also be suitable when you both get along well with one another. Shared custody becomes more complex when you live together. Eventually, you will live separately. Sharing custody in eh same home delays the transition your child must go through eventually. 

Judges want stability and consistency above all else. Safety is wrapped up in this discussion as well. The safety, stability, and consistency of your home environment matter. Being able to guarantee these attributes matters when you are negotiating for conservatorship rights and duties. Working with an attorney with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan provides you a leg up on your co-parent when preparing for this type of analysis within a child custody case. 

The ability to co-parent

Being able to manage your relationship with your co-parent is important, as well. A court is understandably concerned with your ability to work together with your co-parent on the issues most important to your child. This includes coordination of visitation times, and decision-making on school and their physical health. Coming out of a divorce is not the most ideal time for a parent to work together with their ex-spouse. However, that is exactly what you are expected to do when you have minor children. 

Part of this analysis is already set in stone. Your past interactions with your co-parent including your co-parenting efforts to date cannot change. Suppose that your co-parent has never tried to work with you on raising your child. She has made life difficult for you and your son as far as withholding information from school. When there is a doctor’s appointment coming up, she does not provide you with updates. This is going to count against her when it is all said and done. 

Contrast this with your co-parenting style. You constantly seek to involve her in the activities you engage with your child. Communication is something you strive to excel at with her. In short, she cannot provide any evidence to show a court that you are anything but an engaged and enthusiastic co-parent. This helps you in a situation where co-parenting is so important. Even if you are not perfect, showing an effort consistently to co-parent goes a long way in a child custody case. 

How to improve at co-parenting

One of the major issues that parents face going into and coming out of a child custody case is co-parenting. Being able to improve your co-parenting skills is important. It is also possible to do so. However, it isn’t as if these opportunities are highlighted in neon and have blinking red lights attached to them. Rather, you need to seek out these opportunities when they are presented to you. There are co-parenting courses made available through your county. It may be necessary to complete one before the conclusion of your divorce. 

However, take advantage of every real-world opportunity to improve your co-parenting skills, as well. This means sticking your neck out on occasion with your co-parent. Going the extra mile to ensure that her thoughts on various situations are heard. Ensuring that your child has all his belongings after every visitation period. Communicating with her in a way that is respectful and civil. This is what matters when it comes to co-parenting. 

Many times, the attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan suggest to our clients that they need to make an effort immediately after the case ends. A peace offering of some sort. Let your co-parent know that you are not going to hold anything from the divorce against her. These sorts of small gestures make a big difference over time. Showing a commitment to co-parenting means showing a commitment to your child. 

The home environment

This is an even more specific look at the actual home where you are living. A court cares about the safety and suitability of your home for raising kids. Starting with the condition of your home itself. Are there repairs that need to be made? Do you have a stairstep that is a little rickety? What about a backyard that has grass too tall or a beehive in the garage bigger than a car? These are a few examples of conditions that need to be dealt with sooner rather than later. 

Next, the people you have living with you matter. Are you allowing friends and family to live with you? If so, then this may be seen as a negative for your family life. A home is a place for children to feel safe. The more people you have in the home the greater than likelihood that problems arise. Be aware that who you live with matters just as much as where you live.

During the divorce, there is some grace given as far as where you are living. The court understands that three weeks after your divorce was filed may not be where you live in the future. However, with all of that said you also should have a plan on where you are going to live in the future. Being the noncustodial parent to your child means your child lives with your co-parent primarily. Finding a home nearby is a great idea to increase stability for your child. 

The preferences of your child

One of the more common points that a parent makes to our attorneys is that a child can pick who he or she wants to live with primarily. So many parents have this opinion and assume that it is a foregone conclusion that their child’s preference is going to be honored when it comes to living arrangements. Sort of as if all the parent must do is hand a letter from the child to the judge and the rest of the case falls into place.

The preference of your child can become a piece of evidence for a judge to consider. When it comes to determining their primary residence, a child 12 and older has the right to tell the judge where their preference is. You would need to file a motion to have the child talk to the judge about this. A child younger than 12 can do the same. However, it is discretionary (up to the judge) whether to allow that to occur. 

Even then, it is not a given that the judge sides with the child on this. The child’s preference is only one piece of evidence for the court to consider. Additionally, courts understand that children and not always mature and have opinions that flip flop quickly. As a result, do not expect that your child’s preference is all the court will need to name your primary conservator. Additionally, evidence needs to be submitted, as well. 

Final thoughts on how child custody is determined

If you can’t tell, the facts and circumstances of your case matter a great deal when it comes to child custody. It is difficult to offer an opinion to you when we at the Law Office of Bryan Fagan do not know your case. It is only when our experienced family law attorneys gain the opportunity to peel back the onion to see what exactly is going on that a worthwhile opinion can be given. 

The information in today’s blog post should be helpful to you but it is not the only valid perspective that can be given to you. Rather, we can look at your case and then base additional opinions on what you are going through specifically. Family law cases are incredibly fact-specific. Therefore, be prepared to submit your facts to a judge when and if that becomes necessary. 

During a child custody case, you and your co-parent have the upper hand when it comes to hammering out a settlement. The court provides you with every opportunity to settle your case rather than go to court. An experienced family law attorney is a tremendous advantage in times like this. The attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan thank you for choosing to spend part of your day with us here on our blog. 

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. Interested in learning more about how your family is impacted by the material in this blog post? Contact us today.

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At the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC, the firm wants to get to know your case before they commit to work with you. They offer all potential clients a no-obligation, free consultation where you can discuss your case under the client-attorney privilege. This means that everything you say will be kept private and the firm will respectfully advise you at no charge. You can learn more about Texas divorce law and get a good idea of how you want to proceed with your case.

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