We all want to have a leg up on the competition. Whether that competition is a business rival or an opponent in a game, we all want to come out ahead when there is a competition; this doesn't mean that you have to be a person who is constantly driven to be better than others or always compare yourself with someone else, but it does tell that if there is a competition, you want to win it.
As a family law attorney, I can't help but think about divorce and child custody cases as a competition of sorts. Yes, A family law case is about much more than the competition. Still, at its core, your case is a matchup of you and your opposing parent to when as much time with your children as possible to maintain your relationship with those children. Parents of all kinds enter child custody scenarios with concerns and doubts about what the future will hold for themselves and their children. How can you, as a parent, give yourself an advantage in child custody situations during a family law case in Texas?
Getting a leg up on your competition is not bad as long as it is done ethically. When people ask me how to gain an advantage in their child custody cases, I tell them that if you ask that question at the beginning of your case, you ponder it far too late. The difficulty in gaining an advantage in a family law case involving child custody is that it is not much you can do once your case begins to change the course of where a judge would likely rule in terms of custody responsibilities and time.
What outcomes are decided in a child custody case?
Before we go any further, let's talk about what issues are decided in a child custody case. First of all, a child custody case can take place on its own or within a divorce. While a divorce will also touch on issues related to the financial lives of you and your spouse, our primary focus today will be on the child custody aspects of your divorce. When I think about child custody cases, I think about several subjects such as conservatorship and possession and visitation.
Conservatorship in a Texas child custody case
What is a conservatorship? You have undoubtedly heard of the term custody, but you may never have come across the term conservatorships. It may surprise you to learn that the word custody does not appear in the Texas family code. Instead, the term that we use to refer to custody is conservatorships. In whatever context it is being used, conservatorships refer to one person's ability and authority to make decisions on behalf of another person.
For instance, you can be both a conservator of your child and your elderly mother who has dementia. Essentially, the law holds that when one person is not fit or able to make decisions in their best interests for any reason, It is possible to have another person act as a conservator. When it is in someone's best interest to make decisions on their behalf, that is called a conservatorship arrangement.
In a child custody case, there are two parents and typically two parenting roles to fill. The first role is that of the primary conservator. The most notable benefit for a parent to be named the child's primary conservator is that the parent can determine the child's primary residence. For example, if you are called the primary conservator of your child during a divorce, you will have the ability to decide where your child lives primarily. Almost undoubtedly, you would choose to have your child live primarily with you, and therefore, you would have the upper hand when it comes to time with your child.
The other most notable aspect of being named the primary conservator of a child in any divorce or a child custody case is that you then can receive child support on behalf of your child paid for by the other parent. Here is the rationale for child support being paid in most child custody circumstances: because your child's other parent is not with your child as much, it makes sense that they would not be responsible for paying for as much in the way of care for your child as you would be. To level the playing field, child support is paid by that parent to you to make up for this deficit.
Above all else, conservatorships issues mean that rights and duties related to your children will be divided up between you and your co-parent. Most of the rights and responsibilities with your children will be divided evenly between you and your co-parent. This means that both of you will have the right to receive medical and educational information from schools and doctors for your children. This also means that you and your co-parent will each have a say in Medical procedures and educational decisions on behalf of your child. Finally, emergency medical decisions can be made independent of the other parent by whichever parent has the child while the medical emergency is ongoing.
Other rights and duties to your child will likely be held in tandem with your coherent. A few requests and responsibilities for your child may be owned exclusively by you or your other parent, probably depending upon which of you is named the primary conservator of your child. We do not need to get into detail about these specific rights and duties. Still, you should know ahead of time that if your case were to make it before a judge, then being able to display hey consistent and stable history of parenting your child would give you an advantage as far as how rights and duties are divided between you and your co-parent.
Possession/visitation in a Texas child custody case
For today's blog post, I will combine the issues of possession and visitation into one. I'm doing this because custody and visitation are all about time with your children when you get right down to it. Notably, we are discussing this subject about how you and your co-parent must now divide time with your children between the two of you. As we all know, time is a finite resource. They are only so many hours in a day, and your child can only spend so much time with you and your co-parent. This means that you will need to figure out how to divide your time with your child during a child custody case. If you cannot do this, then a judge will be tasked with doing it for you.
As I mentioned a moment ago, the child's primary conservator typically winds up with more parenting time throughout the year. However, if you are the non-primary conservator of your child, you don't need to worry in most cases about having your co-parent have a disproportionate amount of time. In reality, the lion's share of time that your Co-parent will spend with your child comes during the school year during the week. If you remove these periods from the overall possession schedule that you all adhere to, you are the parent who has more time with your child.
What does a judge look at when deciding issues related to your children?
Let's begin today's blog post with the end in mind. Most notably, what you need to learn about family law centers around the steps you can take to convince a judge that not only are you a good parent, but you are a stable and consistent force in your child's life. As I mentioned a moment ago, it is tough to change gears once a case has started and suddenly become apparent that you were not six months ago. This means that if you plan to suddenly become a parent of the year once your divorce for child custody case has begun, then I'm telling you it almost indeed is too late for you.
The bottom line is that a judge would look for stability and consistency for your child. They would be tasked with making what is called the best interest determination on behalf of your child. This means that the judge would consider what is in your child's best interests and would need to predominantly make decisions based on that factor. Your concerns or that of your co-parent regarding parenting or losing time with your children is not a primary motivator for the judge. They would look to what would benefit your children the most physically, emotionally, and relational and make decisions accordingly.
As such, you need to figure out how you can plan out your case to show that you are a consistent and stable parent were your child. For instance, if you are interested in becoming the primary conservator of your children, it would be vital for you to show a judge that you have a consistent work schedule and that you would be available to your children In the event of an emergency. A work schedule that does not allow much flexibility would not be the most conducive color to becoming a primary conservator of school-aged children.
If you plan to push for becoming the primary conservative review children, you should make plans in advance and create a work schedule for yourself that is conducive to this goal. It does not matter if you are a terrific parent and have always done what you can to be physically present for your children. If you have a work schedule that is not flexible and does not allow for you to be able to be at home with your kids consistently, then a judge would likely look negatively upon this unless other circumstances allowed you to care for your children, despite your busy work life.
Closing thoughts on Child custody cases in Texas
Having a solid relationship with your children long before your child custody case begins is a best-case scenario for you. Putting aside any issues related to your family law case, having a solid relationship with your children is what your child needs and what you need. Undoubtedly the essential parts of my life are those that revolve around my kids. I know that even if your circumstances are not the same as mine, you would agree that your kids are the center of your life. You likely would not be going through all the time, effort, and trouble associated with a family law case unless you believe this was true.
Build a relationship with your kids for no other reason than it is the right thing to do. You will find that your relationships with your children improve if you make yourself physically and emotionally available to them. If you need to go through a child custody case in the future, your lawsuit will already be set up well for you to be able to have as much time for Anne's rights to your children as possible. While not every aspect of a child custody case is direct competition, you may as well put yourself in a position to win those parts that are. Building and maintaining strong and consistent relationships with your children is the best way to do so.
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. These consultations can be had in person, over the phone, or via video. I appreciate your interest in our blog, and we hope you will join us again tomorrow as we share more information about Texas family law.