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How to assess the impact of your child custody case on your child

Ultimately what you are trying to figure out in your child custody or divorce case will be in the best interests of your child. Whether you have an infant, a young child, or a teenager, their needs come first in your life. In those moments when it seems like your case can't get any worse, or you can't wait for the case to end, you can remember this to provide you with a little pick-me-up.

During the past few days, I have been writing about how a judge will handle your case if you cannot settle it before a trial. We've written about administrative matters, best interests' analysis, and everything in between. Today's topic is one that judges use to analyze cases, but you can also use it to prepare for your divorce or child custody case. We will be discussing how you can better understand what your children are going through in their experience of your family law case.

We began discussing infants at the tail end of yesterday’s blog post, and I will continue on that topic to begin today’s blog from the Law Office of Bryan Fagan.

Infants pose challenges to parents and judges alike that older children do not.

Because infants cannot communicate verbally, observation of the infant, and how they react to their lives' changing landscape is very important. You have the ability to spend time with you and see if their reactions and behavior change throughout the course of your family law case. Judges do not have that same ability, and you must be the one to present evidence of the effect on your child. This will help the judge gain some context to understand how the case has impacted your child and what is likely in their best interests as far as a living situation is concerned.

For instance, has your child’s eating, sleeping, or playtime behavior changed since you and your spouse's separation? Children of this age have patterns of behavior that they will follow each day. You can expect your child to be hungry every few hours. You can expect that he will take his naps at a certain time. You know what his mood will likely be during a certain time of the day. If these behaviors have changed a great deal since the beginning of your case, you need to make a note of this and make your attorney aware of those changes.

What the judge needs to hear about your infant to decide for the child

Ultimately your observations and worries mean little to your case unless you and your attorney express those in the form of evidence. The temperament of your child, his attachment to both parents, the safety of your child as well as those aforementioned signs of distress (if any) is what the judge absolutely needs to hear about. If you fail to present evidence on these factors, then your spouse has the opportunity to paint a one-sided picture that does not take into account your own experiences.

Judges typically get this evidence in the form of your own testimony but can also request home studies done where your home is evaluated based on how well it would be suited to be the primary residence of a child under 18 months. For instance- does your home present safety hazards that have not been addressed? Are there people living in your home that present dangers through their behavior?

Other caregivers of your child should be brought in as witnesses to testify how well you can provide a home environment for your child. Many people will not be willing to testify, but others will volunteer their time to do so. Only after all of the evidence is collected will a judge be competent to come up with a parenting plan for you and your family.

A judge will not exclude you as a parent because your child is more attached to your spouse.

Most typically, fathers hold the fear that because their young child is more attached to their wife, he will be excluded from consideration for a large share of the time available with their daughter or son. Your judge will want to preserve your child's relationship with both of your child’s parents. Just because your child shows more of an attachment with your spouse does not mean that you will necessarily be excluded from your child's raising. For the most part, judges understand that just because you have been out of the house due to the separation and/or because you work to provide a living for the child, there is less physical attachment present.

What typically happens in these situations is that judges will award you a great deal of visitation time throughout the week. The issue with infants is that the time will be broken down into shorter, more frequent visitation increments to disrupt their schedule and routine. Every child is different, and overnight visits with you will be determined largely by how well your child responds to the visitation schedule.

It goes without saying that being a parent to an infant can and will be exhausting. As a parent, you balance the needs of a growing and changing little person while also being responsible for your work duties and other roles within the community. You must be able to balance these roles to succeed in your family law case. A judge will be able to sniff out your shortcomings and rely on the evidence to fill in the gaps.

Questions the judge will ask regarding parenting an infant.

Your judge will want to know how each parent responded to the pregnancy. Were you a supportive husband and father-to-be? Or did the issues that caused this divorce to become apparent during the pregnancy? If it is shown that you were not entirely focused on your wife during the course of the pregnancy, this could be a severe mark against you.

On the other hand, if you are the wife and mother in this equation, did you allow your husband as involved as possible in the pregnancy? Were you emotionally available both before and after the birth of the child? Mothers often go through difficult times in the immediate time period after the birth of their child. If this is a problem that you had to battle through, you need to show a judge that you are working through those problems with the support of friends, family, and any caregivers that you have been working with.

Next, a judge will want to assess how much each parent takes in daily caregiving of the infant. If you ask a judge to be allowed to raise the child consistently, you need to show him or her that you are up to the challenge. You cannot be a part-time parent of an infant when you are with your child. Your focus and energies but be solely on the well-being of your baby.

Even if you are not the primary caretaker for the child, you must show that you can fulfill those responsibilities when it is your turn to have the child. Do you put your child to bed when you are given the opportunity? Do you bathe your child? Do you know what kind of medicines to give (and not give) your child? Can you stimulate your child through play and learning activities?

Next, a judge will want to see that you are aware of your child's needs as far as the acquisition of skills is concerned. Language skills, sensory skills, physical and relational skills are crucial to your child's proper development at this important age. Becoming stunted in these areas as an infant can set your child back immeasurably. It would help if you learned what milestones your child should be hitting and then figure out how to help your child meet those milestones. This is something that does not cost money but will take time and effort on your part.

Finally, a judge will look at what sort of support system you have available to you. Gone are the days when a child always had a stay at home parent who could be expected to care for the child daily while the other parent worked. In the form of a divorce, you are experiencing one of the biggest reasons why children are not able to have a stay at home parent. Two households mean that two parents need to be working- to the detriment of your child.

Regardless, you need to present evidence of the family you have local to you that can and have interceded and assisted with raising your child. Also, if your child attends daycare or school close to your home, you must be able to layout a plan for the judge as far as how you will continue to facilitate your child's attendance.

Substance abuse problems need to be explained.

Suppose you are dealing with a substance abuse problem that needs to be explained in full. Your treatment plan, actions are already taken to recover from the addition, and plans to be vigilant about any addictions need to be specified for the judge. The odds are good that you have been submitting court-mandated urine or hair samples to ensure that you remain sober. This is a good start, but especially in infants' case, you need to be able to follow through with your words and remain a force for good in your child's life.

We spoke earlier about the importance of keeping a safe home for your infant. This goes double for those parents who are battling addiction. Parents who are addicted to drugs and alcohol leave themselves susceptible to periods of time where they cannot properly care for their children due to being altered from a mental perspective. Incidents in the past where you have left the stove on while intoxicated or failed to prevent your child from injuring themselves can be serious marks against you and your case.

Co-parenting is important

No matter how you feel about your spouse, you need to show the judge that you are willing to assist in furthering the relationship between your child and your spouse. Many parents are unable to do so, and it shows up in their behavior. Body language, your word choice, and your overall demeanor in the courtroom can tell a judge a lot about how you feel regarding your spouse without you ever having said a word. If you can show a judge that you are willing to look past whatever personal grievances you have against your spouse for the sake of your child, you will be better off in the long run.

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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 custody lawyers right away to protect your rights.

Our child custody lawyers 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 custody cases in Houston, Texas, Cypress, Klein, Humble, Kingwood, Tomball, The Woodlands, Houston, the FM 1960 area, or surrounding areas, including Harris County, Montgomery County, Liberty County, Chambers County, Galveston County, Brazoria County, Fort Bend County, and Waller County.

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