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Complicated issues in your Texas child custody case

The great part about being able to blog on a daily basis for our community is that I have an opportunity to promote better knowledge of important issues related to Texas family law. Anyone is fortunate enough to have people in their lives (especially children) that they are a great deal about are likely to run into issues that are related to family law. At the very least we have circumstances in our lives that arise from time to time that leave us wondering what the law is or what is likely to happen inside of a courtroom.

I think the best we can do is provide information that factual and based on the law. Secondly, I do my best to write these blog posts in a way that they will provide the most amount of knowledge to the greatest number of people. This typically means writing blog posts that are somewhat general in nature at the beginning and then spending some time focusing on issues that are somewhat common in the middle and end of the blog post. It isn’t that the Law Office of Bryan Fagan doesn’t handle complex or complicated issues- it’s just that those cases do not occur with as much frequency as more “standard” child custody or divorce cases.

With that said, complicated child custody cases do happen and you may be living proof of that. You may find yourself in a position where you are wondering how to proceed in regard to a particular issue and do not know where to turn. Asking friends and family for their opinions is fine but ultimately those folks probably have very little experience in family law and wouldn’t really know where to begin as far as providing you a response that is helpful.

Today's blog post from the Law Office of Bryan Fagan will center around complicated issues that arise in Texas family law cases. Specifically, I am going to discuss with your child custody cases in particular.

What sort of issues are “complicated” when it comes to child custody cases

I'm old enough to remember when Facebook had a category on your profile for relationship status where you could select "It's Complicated." Basically, that meant that you could tell the world that you were in some kind of a relationship with another person but it wasn't committed, it wasn't casual, it was, well, complicated. What complicated meant to you probably differs from what it means to me. That’s the whole point: to different people the word complicated can mean different things.

When I use the word complicated in the context of today’s blog post I am referring to situations that involve supervised visitation for you or your child’s other parent. Mental illnesses, parents moving with children across state lines, domestic violence and substance abuse problems in the home are other types of atypical (thankfully) situations that can result in a complication of the underlying facts in a child custody case.

Since most parents going through child custody cases are most concerned with the amount of time that he or she is able to spend with their child after the case concludes, let’s begin our discussion today by focusing on visitation issues.

How complicated issues in a family law case can affect visitation with your child

The custody arrangement that is decided upon in your case, whether by agreement or by order of the judge, will determine how much and how frequently you are able to be with your child. If you are not named as the parent with whom your child will reside with primarily it is a “best interests” determination by the judge how much visitation time you will be awarded. While it is presumed that it is in your child’s best interests to have a relationship with both you and your child’s other parent, it is also a function of how well you parent as to how much visitation time you are awarded.

Depending on whether or not if any of the above complications exist in your case the visitation order that is laid out for you may either be very flexible or quite restrictive. Typically flexible visitation orders are prescribed in cases where parents have shown a willingness and ability to co-parent with one another and also live reasonably close to one another. If you and your child’s other parent have no problem communicating changes in schedules, alternate plans, etc. then it is probable that your visitation orders will be flexible.

On the other hand, in the event that there has been violence in the home, or if arguments were frequent between you and your child’s other parent the visitation orders will probably reflect this reality and therefore you can expect the orders to be quite restrictive. A “Standard Possession Order” follows the Texas Family Code by allowing the noncustodial parent to have the child on the first, third and fifth weekends of each month, along with a nightly dinner visitation period. This is the basis from which most (though not all) visitation schedules are based upon.

A more complicated scenario may involve if you or your child’s other parent has a work schedule that is not a 9-5 type. For those of you who work in fields where you are constantly “on call”, it may not make sense for you to agree to a visitation schedule that demands that you be able to pick up your child at 6:00 p.m. on a Friday and then drop your child off at 6:00 p.m. on a Sunday on those first, third and fifth weekends. Doing so would cause you to be set up for failure should you get a call from work and have to miss one of those assigned pick up/drop off times.

The difficulty for either judges or you and your spouse is that you cannot have a too wide open visitation schedule that allows people to take advantage of a flexible order. The other side of the coin is just as bad- an extremely restrictive visitation schedule that will cause you to miss your prescribed times more often than not due to your work schedule. What can you do in these types of scenarios?

If you need a flexible visitation schedule, work towards a settlement rather than a trial

Practically speaking, if you are in a position where you need to be able to have flexibility with your visitation time it is probably for the best that you attempt to work out a settlement with your spouse rather than to leave your case to a judge. The reason being is that you and your spouse will be able to come up with a much more flexible agreement together than you could get from a judge. The judge does not have the ability to take into account all of the factors relevant to your case, in comparison to you and your spouse.

This may cause you to do a double-take, at first glance. Didn’t you just sit through a day or two-day trial with the judge? You would assume that the judge would be able to pick up on every subtlety that you and your spouse are aware of by virtue of the fact that she has been in the same room as you two for a couple of days. That assumption would be incorrect. Not only do judges not pick up on those subtle factors that can have a huge impact on custody cases, but they have many more considerations to make than just coming up with a visitation schedule that suits you perfectly.

A right of first refusal

I had a case a couple years ago that involved a father who had a very hectic work schedule. He loved his son and wanted to be able to spend as much time with him as possible, but in the divorce, it became apparent that a traditional visitation schedule simply would not work. At the same time, his wife was concerned that once the divorce was over with every time his work would call him away on a weekend where the child was with his father a phone call would be made to the father's parents or sister to watch the child instead of him.

In situations where you and your child’s other parent can get along relatively well and one of you has a very flexible schedule, it may make sense to implement what is known as a right of first refusal in the custody agreements made in your case. A right of first refusal allows one parent to contact the other parent in the event that a visitation period has to be missed for an emergency. That other parent then would have the ability to elect to take possession of the child during a period of time that is not allotted to him or her in the child custody orders.

Let’s go over an example to illustrate this point a little more clearly. Consider a situation where you have a traditional 9-5 job and a great deal of flexibility in your schedule on the weekends. If your ex-spouse is a physician who works odd hours at hospitals it may be helpful to have a right of first refusal included in your divorce decree. The right of first refusal would order that your ex-spouse contact you in the event that he anticipates needing to be away from your child for a period lasting eight hours or more at a time in order to allow you the opportunity to take possession of your child during this time period. You can elect to take possession of your son or decline to do so.

A support system of relatives on both sides of the family as well as a parent who has a great deal of flexibility (and a desire) to be with your child more often than not is essential to allow this type of arrangement to work out well. There are undoubtedly more opportunities to have disagreements arise in these scenarios as well, so a good relationship is a necessary starting point in order for you to expect a right of first refusal to succeed for you and your family. It’s just another example of how co-parenting, and putting the best interests of your child first, can pay off for you and your family in the long run.

Denying access to a parent and supervised visitation will be discussed in great detail in tomorrow’s blog post

Given that we have introduced the topic of atypical visitation arrangements in today's blog post, I figure that we can continue on with this subject in tomorrow's as well. In some divorce and child custody cases, it is necessary for a parent's visitation rights to be restricted or done in a supervised environment. If this is a topic that is relevant to you then I suggest you return to our blog tomorrow in order to find out more.

If you have any questions about the material and subject matter that we covered today, 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 here in our office. These consultations offer you a pressure free, comfortable environment to ask questions and receive answers about your specific family law circumstances. Any concerns you have can be addressed directly.

Our attorneys take a great deal of pride in representing people in our community just like you who have a family law situation that needs to be dealt with. From Angleton to Atascocita, our attorneys are as active in the courts of southeast Texas as any family law firm in our area. It is our privilege to be able to work alongside our clients in working to achieve their goals. We thank you for your interest in this blog post topic and hope you will join us again tomorrow.

And, remember: the Law Office of Bryan Fagan is: On Your Side!

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Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC | Houston, Texas Child Custody Lawyers

The Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC routinely handles matters that affect children and families. If you have questions regarding child custody, it's important to speak with one of our Houston, TX Child CustodyLawyersright away to protect your rights.

Our child custodylawyers in Houston TX are skilled at listening to your goals during this trying process and developing a strategy to meet those goals. Contact Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC by calling (281) 810-9760 or submit your contact information in our online form. The Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC handles child custodycases in Houston, Texas, Cypress, Klein, Humble, KingwoodTomballThe Woodlands, the FM 1960 area, or surrounding areas, including Harris CountyMontgomery CountyLiberty County, Chambers CountyGalveston CountyBrazoria CountyFort Bend County and Waller County.

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