It is my experience, when representing fathers in divorce or a child custody cases, that men typically enter into family law cases with different goals than women. I think men in fathers generally speaking perceive themselves to be at a disadvantage when the case begins and as a result assume that the goals, they have need to be more reasonable than the goals that their wife or child's mother may have. There is a great deal of longstanding belief that the courts generally favor women in custody determinations and that menare, at this, left trying to receive a split in custody time with their children.
Let's start today's blog post with a discussion on this subject. The reality of a family law case is that the law in Texas is not ambiguous when it comes to judges favoring either mothers or fathers when it comes to determinations regarding their children. The Texas family code explicitly states that men and women are to be treated equally. Judges are not legally able to base their decisions on conservatorships, visitation or possession based on whether or not one party is a man, or one party is a woman. Instead, a judge must apply hey best interests’ determination when making any decision regarding your child.
The best interest standard is one that is almost universally applied throughout our country when it comes to making decisions regarding custody for a child. Essentially, a judge is able to assess what is in the best interests of that child from a health, well-being and overall perspective. Once a judge assesses your situation from what is best for your children rather than what is best for any individual parent then a decision can be made in your case. A judge is not supposed to give preference to mothers or fathers solely based on their sex.
On the other hand, the law in Texas allows judges to insert their discretion into your family court case without much problem. The state legislature wants to allow judges to use their experiences when making decisions regarding your divorce or child custody case. So, if your case does make it all the way to a judge then you should not be surprised if the judge utilizes the law and their personal experience when making decisions. This is where many people get bent out of shape about mothers getting the long end of the stick and father's supposedly getting the short end of the stick.
As a family law attorney, we hear about gossip and tendencies of judges from other attorneys and other people in the family law community all the time. Certain judges have certain reputations about favoring one type of parent or another or having general dispositions against or for either men or women. Again, I have to emphasize that these are more gossip than they are actual intelligence about the way particular judges’ rule. For the most part, judges are so busy and have so few time to review matters regarding your case, it wouldn't surprise me if sex or gender didn't even enter into their minds in many cases.
The other major point that I need to get across to you today is that family court judges only rarely make final decisions in child custody or divorce cases in Texas. The reason why this is true is due to the fact that most people involved in these cases settle their cases before a trial is necessary. This means that you and your spouse or co-parent are more likely going to be the persons who determine the outcomes of your case rather than a judge. Planning your whole case around a divorce or child custody trial is not necessarily the most efficient way to arrive at decisions that are in the best interests of your children.
Due to the unlikely nature of a divorce or child custody trial in your case you are better off preparing on how to mediate your case successfully with your opposing party. This does not mean that you should neglect preparation for a trial but what it does mean is that the work you do for mediation in the experience you gain in negotiating through mediation will be its own way preparation for a trial. It is also my experience that parents are able to better able to reach far more equitable outcomes in mediation than they are in a courtroom.
What does “play to win” mean in a divorce or child custody case?
Now that we have discussed some preliminary matters regarding child custody and divorce cases, we can dig into the topic of today's blog post. If you are a father who is involved in a family log related scenario then you have likely run into some of the stereotypes that I mentioned at the outset of today's blog post. You may be sitting reading this blog post thinking to yourself that the best you can do is to ask for a standard amount of possession for fathers and child support based on the tables contained in the Texas family code.
I am here to tell you that father's do not have to take a backseat to mothers and important questions regarding your children. While the law may, on its face, be completely fair to mothers and fathers we know from living life in the real world that is not always how things shake out. Life treats different people in different ways and fairness is not always a part of that discussion. I am not here to tell you that your experience in a family law court or within a family law case or feel completely fair from start to finish. However, what I am here to tell you is that you as a father have a duty to play to win your family law case.
Just what do I mean by play to win? If you are anything like me, then you are a sports fan to one degree or another. Playing to win simply means giving your best effort and preparing yourself for the best possible result. That can mean different things to different people in different circumstances. Playing to win is not as easy to measure in the world of family law as it is in the world of athletics because there is no scoreboard in a family log case. Determining who is a winner and who is a loser in a family law case is a fool’s errand and is subject to the beliefs of any person who is looking at the case from the outside in.
To me, if you are an involved in diligent father who has always played a big role in your child's upbringing that does not need to change just because you are going through a family law case. In fact, you should use your history as a good dad to help You build a strong case in your family law matter. Going into a family law case with the assumption That you are playing for second best works just about as well as your favorite football team going into a game hoping to just keep the score close. If you go in with that attitude it will impact every decision you make within the case.
Start by being intentional about your goals
From my perspective, you need to start by being intentional when it comes to your goals and goal setting within the family law case. Part of my reason for saying this is that if you act intentionally in regard to your case you are likely better able to visualize an end result of your case and will think more clearly about what steps you need to take to achieve those goals. This is something that we all should do more of, in my opinion, in our daily lives. Rather than drifting through a process aimlessly why not take the time to create some concrete goals and act intentionally? This is true in many areas of life just as it is in a family law case.
The other reason why I believe is critical for you to be intentional when it comes to creating goals for yourself in your family while case is because you can rest assured that your opposing party will certainly be doing so. Every moment that you are not working on your case and creating goals for yourself in regard to your children Is time that your spouse or co-parent is likely spending on the case from her perspective. Think about organizing, goal setting and generally planning out the stages of your case as training for a sport or athletic event. You cannot expect to achieve success in your family law case without putting in the work. Again, your wife or Co parent will outwork you if you allow her to do it.
What does be intentional mean when it comes to goal setting in a custody case? Well, if you want to be the parent with whom your children reside with primarily then you need to know this role is called a primary conservator in Texas. A primary conservator not only is able to spend time with their children more than the non-primary conservator but also has a leg up in regard to handling rights and duties for the children and receiving child support. I can also tell you that most Family law cases see mothers being named as the primary conservator as opposed to fathers.
Hopefully by this point in today's blog post you should have an inkling why that is. This is not necessarily the case because mothers are better parents. This is not necessarily the case because mothers tend to spend more time with their kids than fathers do. While both of these things may be true in individual cases the vast majority of the time, mothers enter into a custody case with a goal to become primary conservator and to be honest with you they hold in assumption that at that this will be the case. Therefore, mothers have a concrete goal in place from the outset of the case and do not waver on that goal despite any adversity that comes their way.
You as a father should not back down from your positions during the case, either. Many times, fathers will back off from positions that they previously held in order to be more reasonable or to cause less conflict in a case. You may be the most diligent in caring father in the world who spends a great deal of time with your children. However, this means nothing, or next to nothing, if you go into your family law case with a modest goal to have a standard possession order and no more time with your kids.
My closing point to today's blog post is this: if you are a father who has spent just as much time with your children as your wife, have a desire to spend time with your children as much as you can And are in a position to become the primary conservator children then you absolutely should push for that goal. You are not being overly aggressive in making a push like this. You are not being difficult. You are not putting your children through a bad experience by prolonging your child custody case. Keep in mind that if you believe that it is truly in your children's best interests for you to be named as a primary conservator then you should be intentional about how you go about achieving this goal. Playing to win means doing what is best for your team. Your team, in this setting or any other, is you and your kids.
Questions about the material shared 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 in person, over the phone and via video. These consultations are a great way for you to learn more about Texas family law and the services that our law office provides to our clients.