When determining an appropriate custody arrangement for yourself and your spouse after a divorce, there are many factors to consider. The age of your child, in addition to other factors, is one that certainly deserves merit. Depending upon your child's age, they may not be ready for overnight visits with a non-custodial parent. Think about a very young child who is not comfortable sleeping at someone else's house and in a crib or a bed that is not their own. Additionally, your older child may require visitation or custody arrangements that are more flexible and allows for them they have more autonomy on the week-to-week structures where they are to stay.
I think we should first look at what a custody arrangement is in Texas and how issues related to custody may be determined in your divorce. Keep in mind that every divorce and child custody case is unique, and what we talk about in this blog post may not specifically apply to your circumstances. However, I believe that much of what we discussed today will apply to you and your family, no matter the ages of your children. For questions about any topic not touched on in today's blog post, please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan.
What does custody mean in the context of a Texas family law case?
I often feel the need to clarify what a term means in the context of one of our blog posts. I do this because it may be that the terminology or subject matter that I would like to provide information about on this blog is either relatively obscure or difficult to understand if he does not have a great deal of experience in the world of Texas family law. On the other hand, I don't think anyone here is unfamiliar with the term custody. Most everyone has a basic understanding of what custody is in that it relates to family law primarily.
Custody takes into consideration issues related to conservatorship, Visitation, possession, and access. It is a catchall term used to describe several different concepts in family law. Since it is tedious to mention multiple areas of family law, we have just sort of combined each of these topics into one and called it custody. While many parents concern themselves primarily with possession and Visitation with their children, conservatorship rights are also essential to note.
Conservatorship issues in a Texas divorce
When you are a conservator over another person, you have the right to make decisions on behalf of that person in the duty to care for that person and look out for their best interests. Sometimes you will meet people who are conservators over an elderly or impaired relative who cannot take care of themselves on their own. In that case, an adult who can better care for their best interests may seek a court order naming him or herself as the conservator of that dependent relative.
In the context of a Texas family law case, conservatorship refers to rights and duties that a parent has with their children. Parents must provide the necessities of life for their children, such as shelter, clothing, a primary education, food, and things of that nature. Above and beyond all these things, a parent also has to love their children and emotionally support their kids.
Parents also have the right to make decisions on behalf of their children. Children do not have the experience or maturity to make decisions for themselves. As such, the law puts their parents in a position to make decisions until that child reaches the age of majority. In the context of a family law case, typically, these decisions are with educational and medical matters. The tricky part about discussing rights and duties with your children is that these rights and responsibilities will need to be divided up between you and your spouse after the divorce.
Many rights and duties are shared with your ex-spouse; some are held independent, while in some cases, one parent will have the exclusive right to make decisions about one subject or another. It would help if you worked closely with your family law attorney to consider your specific circumstances and how these rights and duties should be apportioned Between you and your ex-spouse. I can tell you from experience that this is not a subject that many parents come into a divorce showing a lot of concern over. However, it is just as important as dividing up time between you and your spouse.
Visitation, possession, and access issues in a Texas divorce
when you consider limitations, possession, and access issues, we are typically talking about one common subject: time. Time with your children is but you will likely be the most focused on as your divorce approaches. Time with your kids is something that you may have taken for granted like many parents do before your divorce but are now seeking answers on how to be with your child as much as possible. This will be the focus of the remainder of today's blog post.
Simply put, as a result of Texas divorces, most parents end up sharing time with their children in a joint managing conservatorship. We have already discussed what a conservatorship is, so now we can talk about the time with your children and how it will be divided into a joint managing conservatorship. The most common division of time for parents in separated households is where one parent lives with the children on a primary basis in the other parent has Visitation. The primary conservator can select the primary residence of the kids. At the same time, the parent with visitation rights has a set visitation schedule that they can take advantage of during the year.
The most typical visitation schedule for the non-primary parent is called a standard possession order. A legal possession order is a custody arrangement regarding the time that you are probably the most aware of. The first, 3rd, and 5th weekends of each month go towards time 4 for the non-primary parent. Holidays, summer vacation, and other periods throughout the year are spelled out within the final decree of divorce as far as how time will ultimately be divided.
The most common concern that I hear from the non-primary parent regarding a standard possession order is that they are worried about the Visitation schedule giving much more time to the primary period than themselves. I understand this concern and have talked to many parents about how time is divided under a standard possession order. The best that I can tell you is that a joint possession order, while it does not offer a complete split in terms of time, does divide time up more equitably than you might think.
Consider that Holidays are split down the middle, summer vacations allow for extended periods for you to be with your kids, and you can take advantage of more weekends with your children during the school year, then do you expel. Yes, your ex-spouse does get your children during the week but keep in mind that the hours that your children are actually at home during the school week are limited. With all that said, a standard possession order allows you to spend time with your children and develop a relationship with them.
Age-related impacts on custody arrangements
now that we have talked about the basics of conservatorships, Visitation, and possession in Texas, we can now get down to the subject matter of today's blog post. The age of your children can make a difference in how custody is divided between you and your ex-spouse. That doesn't mean that the custody arrangements will also need to change for each new age your child turns over a given year. However, depending on the stage in your child's development, they may need more time with one parent depending on their circumstances.
A three-year-old or younger child is typically not equipped to be engaged in a full visitation schedule with their non-primary parent. For infants and even toddlers, their primary source of food may be limited, and therefore, the parent who provides the food (Mom) still needs to be close to the child until they begin to eat solid foods. As such, if you are a non-primary parent, your opportunities to visit with your child may be more limited in terms of the duration of each visit. You and your spouse should negotiate with this in mind during your divorce to give you time with your child but still allow them to be near their food source and mother.
Once a child turns four and then up to the point where they begin to drive a vehicle, your circumstances will play more into how Visitation time is divided up more so than your child's age. School-aged children can typically adjust moderately well to changes in Visitation and travel from home to home to spend time with each of their parents. As a result, I cannot say that the age of your children plays a huge role in determining custody arrangements once they are school-aged.
However, I will note that once your child reaches 12 or 13 years old, they can speak to your family court judge about their preferences as far as Visitation is concerned. That doesn't mean that the judge will have to determine custody based on your child's preferences. Still, a judge will be more interested in learning what a teenage child believes in control than a child in elementary school.
Finally, suppose your child is old enough to drive. In that case, they likely have extracurricular activities, obligations of other sorts, and even work to be concerned with how custody is determined. This means that the orders contained in your final decree of divorce will act more so as suggestions or guideposts rather than strict rules. The reason for this is that your child can transport him or herself from home to home and that their schedule may change at a moment's notice. You should not be surprised if the plan contained in your final decree of divorce for child custody ends up having to change multiple times as your children become teenagers.
However, this does not mean that you and your ex-spouse will have to go back to family court to have a judge modify your orders formally. If you and your ex-spouse can work together and coordinate changes as they need to arise, then you all can avoid costly and drawn-out court battles over this subject. Remember that just because you have gotten divorced from your spouse does not mean that your time working with them to solve issues is over with. Your work co-parenting your children is just beginning once your divorce is finalized.
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 consultation six days a week in person, over the phone, and via video. I appreciate your interest in today's blog post, and we hope you will join us again tomorrow as we share unique content about the world of Texas family law.
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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 essential 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 the 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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