Today’s blog post is intended to approach the subject of your relationship with your child from the perspective of the judge who will be overseeing your case. The way that you parent your parent is dependent on many factors that are specific to your family. One of the most difficult aspects of a judge’s job is the need for them to be able to analyze what is in the best interests of your child based on a relatively short hearing or trial.
It is not a fun feeling to believe that you need to justify your actions or attitudes in relation to your child. Unfortunately, if you and your child’s other parent cannot come to an agreement on a settlement regarding the child custody case you will have to go in front of a judge. In that situation you will be forced to present evidence that basically justifies your past actions as a parent and shows the judge that you are the better equipped parent to make positive decisions in relation to your child.
The bottom line is that in a child custody case, the judge will not want to encourage you and the other parent to think of one of you as the “winner” and the other one as the “loser.” On the contrary, for most children it is in their best interests to be able to establish and maintain a close relationship with both of their children. Your judge will do everything possible to ensure that this happens but will still need to make difficult decisions about where your child will be living primarily and how you both will share in the rights and duties associated with parenting your child.
How will you handle the emotional components of the child custody case?
It is common to experience a great deal of emotions associated with your child custody case. For the entirety of your child’s life you have likely had one particular family structure that you have fostered on a day in and day out basis. Now that you are engaging in a child custody case, either a divorce or Suit Affecting the Parent-Child Relationship (SAPCR), that family dynamic is changing. With those changes can come a change in your own emotional outlook.
Your identity is tied to your child’s well being- or at least I hope that it is. Your child’s successes, failures and achievements can bring a parent to the highest of highs but also the lowest of lows. Taking your child into a contested family law case, even if you believe that it will benefit your child in the long run, can be among the low points in your self identity as a parent. Couple that with how adversarial the process can be and there is little doubt that your emotional outlook will change to an extent as a result of being involved in this child custody case.
Making decisions during a divorce can be difficult- but it is necessary
If you have ever spoken to a counselor, financial advisor or another person who is in a position to advise you on any subject, then you know that it is fairly standard advice that a person should do their best not to make any decisions while undergoing a painful or difficult process. Certainly a divorce or child custody case would qualify as an emotional process but unfortunately it is not possible to avoid making important decisions in your case. You will be asked to make little and big decisions throughout the case. However, you will have the assistance of your attorney to help you make those decisions.
Suffice it to say, a judge will understand that you are not at your best when it comes to being able to make reasoned, objective decisions in relation to yourself and your family.
How are you likely to react to the emotional stressors of your child custody case?
From the point of view of a judge, you may be forced to shift into a state of survival mode during the course of your child custody case. This means that because you have been overwhelmed by the process, your emotions and the stresses brought about by the case you have put yourself in a state of mind where you are unable to meet the day to day requirements of parenting. You may have been perfectly capable of doing so prior to the filing of your family law case but now you find yourself distracted and unable to spend the time that you previously committed to parenting your child.
The judge in your case will have the task to determine where you are from an emotional standpoint in order to determine what is in your child’s best interests. If a judge perceives that you are unable to meet the basic requirements of parenting your child and furthering your child’s relationship with their other parent, then you will likely suffer in that kind of analysis.
If you are asking a judge to determine your fitness to parent at the outset of your case, you are going to put yourself in a position to have another person judge you when you are at your weakest and most vulnerable.
I can tell you from experience that your ability to appear in front of a judge can differ dramatically from the beginning of a case to the end. The reason is that at the beginning of the case your emotions are raw, and you are getting involved in a process that you have no experience in. Towards the end you will have become used to the pace of a family law case and will likely have developed an immunity to the emotional hardships of the case.
From the beginning of your case until its conclusion the judge will want to ensure that your child is not suffering because you are having a particularly hard time dealing with your family law case. If, for example, you have had a problem handling anger since your child custody case began a judge may believe that you could be harming your child’s sense of self and security. In the event that you are attempting to numb your senses with drugs or alcohol this will only increase those feelings of unease in your judge.
How attached to you is your child?
Another important factor that a judge will consider in your child custody case is your child’s level of attachment to you. Since the beginning of your child’s life he or she has been attached to you- for good reason. You have provided the essentials of life for him or her- food, shelter, comfort, etc. You have consistently responded to their needs with love and as a result a bond has developed. A determination will be made by the judge as to how well you have responded to the needs of your child. Depending on the age and specific needs of your child you will be evaluated to determine just what needs to be in place for your child’s needs to be met.
Another important consideration to make in a child custody case is how attached to each other are your children? Siblings use one another to get through the difficulties of a child custody case. They rely upon one another for support. If you or your spouse have a plan to divide the children between the two of you it is worthwhile for you to know that a judge will likely not be in favor of this being done. Unless there is a safety risk associated with placing your children together in the same home it is unlikely that the judge will split your children between you and your spouse. Remember that stability is important and removing one of their parents and at least one sibling from their life can harm a child.
How stepparents and significant others can play a role in your child custody case
If you or your ex-spouse has “moved on” and began dating or even gotten married since the time of your divorce then you will find out that those new relationships will play a role in your child custody case. Again, the relationship will not be viewed from the standpoint of how strong is your relationship with this person, but from the vantage point of how well does your new partner relate to and improve the life of your child?
It is not uncommon for a child to feel like he is losing a parent for a second time when the parent chooses to engage in a new relationship or even to get married again. While you and your new spouse may believe him or her fully capable to bridging the gap between themselves and your child, this can be an unrealistic assumption to make. It can often take time for a new partner to be able to integrate themselves into your family.
For instance, how long since your divorce did it take you to engage in a new relationship? How involved in your current relationship is your child? Have you encouraged your child and new partner to develop a relationship with one another? How well have you handled your child’s emotions surrounding this subject? Finally, is your child getting enough one on one time with you to compensate for the diminished time he has with you?
These are relevant questions to ask yourself in regard to you, your child and any new relationships that you have entered into. Certainly, you will want to ensure that your child understands that you still love him or her just the same as always. A new relationship can, in some instances, improve your relationship to your child, but every family is different. A judge will view your family based on the evidence presented.
Your personal attributes and their effect on a judge’s decision making
Remember that your judge is going to need to make determinations in your child custody case that are based on what is in the best interests of your child. To make that sort of decision, a judge will be viewing you through the prism of the specific circumstances of your case as well as a historical vantage point.
Throughout the years, our legal system has (fairly or not) given preference to both mothers and fathers in this regard. Initially courts seemed to give preference to fathers, as far as being awarded primary conservatorship of a child is concerned, likely because it was thought that a father could provide financially for a family better than a mother. Fathers were given the benefit of the dobut when it came to be able to provide discipline and structure- especially for older children.
At some point the pendulum shifted towards mothers as the preference of most judges to be awarded primary conservatorship of a child. Fathers could provide for their children but most likely hadn’t developed an emotional bond equal to mothers and as a result it become the overwhelming norm to have mothers be awarded primary custody of a child.
The law in Texas is that no preference is to be given to mothers or fathers when it comes to “best interests” of your child. It is not impossible, however, for your judge to rely on their own opinions when it comes to the gender of a parent when making best interest determinations. In tomorrow’s blog post we will discuss this subject in more detail. Additionally, subjects like culture, ethnicity, and sexual orientation will be discussed.
Questions about child custody cases? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan
If you have any questions about the material that we covered today, please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. Our licensed family law attorneys are available six days a week to answer questions and address your concerns in a free of charge consultation. We take pride in being able to represent the people in our community and look forward to speaking to you about how we can serve your family.
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Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC | Spring Divorce Lawyer
The Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC routinely handles matters that affect children and families. If you have questions regarding divorce, it's important to speak with ar Spring, TX Divorce Lawyer right away to protect your rights.
A divorce lawyer in Spring TX is 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 Divorce cases in Spring, Texas, Cypress, Spring, Klein, Humble, Kingwood, Tomball, The Woodlands, 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.