One of the areas within family law that is growing in notoriety and importance is that of the father's rights. While no portion of the Texas family code deals in this subject exclusively, father's rights have come out of an area of the law that deals in protecting the rights that fathers have about their children during a divorce or child custody case. While fathers do not have any explicit rights about their children that are not also provided to mothers, there does seem to be a consensus that fathers tend to get the short end of a stick in custody and other circumstances involving children.
This is curious because looking through the Texas family code, you will not see that the law treats mothers and fathers differently. Mothers and fathers have equal rights about their children regarding conservatorships rights, Visitation privileges, and everything in between. As you would expect when it comes to the law and parents, men and women are treated the same. Explicitly there are no differences between how a family court judge would treat a mother and a father who are equally situated in their court. As with most things, however, the reality is that fathers typically believe that they are not given fair dealing in mini courtrooms.
That isn't just my opinion, either. Whether or not you think this is true, all you need to do is Google the term father's rights and see what comes up. You will receive thousands upon thousands of websites with information for information on fathers' rights in the field of family law as well as about attorneys who purport themselves to be experts in defending the rights of fathers in family law cases. While our law practice is not devoted entirely to representing men or fathers in child custody or divorce cases, we understand and empathize with the many fathers and men who find themselves wondering if they can get a fair hearing in a courtroom in Southeast Texas.
So long as large groups of men and fathers feel like their rights are being taken for a ride in family law courts in Texas, there at least is an image problem or a perception problem that the courts have in this regard. Some of these problems are more longstanding and date back to an era when men surely faced discrimination in family court scenarios. Other times, these beliefs are held due to men putting themselves into positions where it will be complicated for them to and up in similar situations as their wives or female partners.
Whatever the case may be, you need to be prepared to act intentionally during your child custody or divorce case if you are a father. If there is one thing you do not want to be lackadaisical or unprepared about, it is a family law case. When your relationship with your children is at stake, there is no way for you to be overprepared. In today's blog post, I will share some information and perspective on father's rights about Texas family law. Hopefully, by the end of the blog post, you will have gained some information on how to best approach these subjects in your circumstances.
Does the law favor mothers over fathers in Texas family cases?
The short answer to the above question is no. Texas family law does not overtly favor men over women or mothers over fathers. The law is gender-neutral and is not maintained that fathers have certain rights while mothers have others. Rather, the law treats men and women the same regarding Family law cases in Texas. This may be music to your ears, given your concerns over what the law says regarding your rights as a father. I have had more than one father approached me about their circumstances with a strong position that he believes that the law says things about mothers and fathers that it does not.
Once you, as a father, find yourself involved in a Texas family law case, then it is up to you to approach the case from the perspective of your rights and duties as a parent. Before a family court becomes involved in your case, you and your child's mother on the same rights and duties about that child, even if you have not seen your child in many years for one reason or another, then you should still know that a family court would seek to uphold the same rights and privileges for both you and your child's mother. The law does not state that fathers can do certain things and mothers can do certain other things.
What the law does not account for are your particular circumstances. As with any family law case, the facts and circumstances of your life are just as important as what the law says. No, it's not as if a family court judge would completely ignore the lie about you are circumstances. Still, family court judges certainly will be swayed by your particular circumstances when determining issues regarding custody, child support, conservatorships in Visitation rights. Keep in mind that family court judges are free to make decisions based on their own experience, as well.
This means two things for you as you begin your family law case in Texas. Number one, it means that your history as a parent will factor in heavily ultimately decides regarding conservatorships and Visitation. If you have been an absentee parent for many years, then this will certainly factor into your ability to become a primary conservator of your children or to share equally in Visitation time with your kids when compared to your spouse. An active and involved father has just as much right to ask for primary parenting responsibilities then does an active and involved mother.
Another reality of this circumstance is that you will invariably be assigned to a family court judge who has a reputation of some sort. At the risk of running afoul of some role of professional conduct, I will say that most family court judges have reputations for reasons. From my experience, judges I have worked with in the past are fair and conscientious of the persons before them in court. That doesn't mean that your judge won't have some inherent biases that are more difficult to shake. Certain judges do have reputations for being either pro mother or pro father. That's just the reality of the situation.
So, while you will not see a family court judge tell you that you can't be named as the primary conservator of your children because you're a father, what you will also not see is that judges use the law, their experiences. Their personal biases to award rights and duties in a hearing or trial circumstance. After all, judges are human and are prone to making decisions that may not be completely rational or fact-based. The best you can do is set yourself up for success by being the best parent you can be in whatever circumstances you find yourself in.
Don't put yourself in a position, or the case is left up to a judge.
I'm not a huge boxing fan, but I know how a fighter can win a particular match. A boxer typically wins a fight in one of two ways: knockout or a judge's decision. A knockout is pretty straightforward. From the fighter pummels their opponent to the point where the referee calls the match because the dazed and confused opponent cannot continue, it is clear who the winner is. If you are the fighter in that situation, you have not left it up to any doubt, and you walk away with a 1 sided in a clear victory.
On the other hand, a fighter can also win when the match is relatively close, and the judges will be called to determine who landed better punches over time. So, in a boxing match that is 10 rounds, long judges will be asked to determine how many solid punches each fighter ranted on the other. Each judge will add up their total punches, and the fighter who landed more movies is announced as the winner.
What does this boxing analogy have to do with family law? Well, I think it has a great deal to do with the area of fathers' rights in particular. You can think about a child custody or divorce case as a boxing match. Both you and your child's mother will be duking it out, metaphorically speaking, to win as many rights and duties about your child as possible. If you compete to determine who is best suited to parent your child on a more frequent basis, you will want to put yourself in a position where you can make arguments to show that you are an active and involved parent.
If you do such a stupendous job of showing your wife that you are an active and involved father, it is more likely that you can negotiate strong rights and duties as well as a great deal of Visitation time with your children. The reason why this is so is that your spouse understands that to not negotiate with you means risking losing even more in terms of rights and duties in court during a hearing or trial. Therefore, you are not leaving it up to the judge but rather landing solid punches throughout your fight that allow you to win on your own merits.
On the other hand, if you are more predisposed to making the case up to the judge, you may be in for a world of hurt. Not only is your case going to last longer, leaving more time for punches to be thrown received, but you are putting yourself at risk of losing the fight. The reason for this is that family court judge; I only have an opportunity to learn a little bit about you in a little bit about your spouse. For that reason, You are leaving it up to chance on what the judge can learn and what the judge is willing to rule in your favor.
If you are a dad who is not interested in raising your children to the point where you get a divorce, then don't expect a few weeks or months of involved parenting to override you are prior few years of shoddy parenting. A judge will see through the veneer of involved parenting; it will likely see that your acting as an involved parent is more or less an act. This is not a winning combination or one there will see a great return on investment.
What can you do to prepare for a Texas there?
If you are a father reading this blog post, you should take heart because there is plenty you can do to prepare for your family law case before it begins. For starters, you can and should spend as much time with your children as possible. Not only are you doing so in the best interest of your children, but it is also in the best interests of your case. Doing things like learning the names of your children's friends, attending parent-teacher conferences, and making yourself available for other activities with the kids is always a good idea.
Next, you should begin to build or repair any broken bridges with your spouse or Co-parent. I know many people feel like once a family case begins, there is no opportunity for compromise or negotiation. This couldn't be further from the truth. The family law case offers plenty of opportunities for mothers and fathers to negotiate on issues that relate to child custody. However, negotiation and compromise are typically best achieved when parents have a working relationship. Otherwise, your attempts to work with your Co-parent may fall upon deaf ears.
Even if your spouse or Co-parent do not necessarily like you at this time or approve of how you've acted in some regard, she will likely concede that you have the best interests of your kids in mind when you truly do. I have worked with plenty of mothers who have told me that they cannot stand their spouse but understand that he loves the children it wouldn't do anything to hurt them. If you can at least get your relationship to this point, you have a chance to negotiate for the positions you want regarding your children. If your spouse or Co-parent doesn't like you and doesn't think your children benefit from seeing you, then you are in a difficult position as far as negotiation is concerned.
Next, you can prepare for your child custody or divorce case by creating a plan of attack and goals to be achieved in your case. It is not enough to wander into a child custody or divorce case. Once there, you need to act intentionally, and you can only do so when you have a clear-cut plan and mission in mind. For instance, if you want to be named the primary conservator of your children, you need to be able to defender position. Why are you better suited to be the primary conservator of your children and then your spouse? If you can't defend your thoughts to yourself, how do you expect to defend them in front of a judge?
Finally, it would help if you had the right advocate in your corner when working on your divorce or child custody case. While having an attorney to represent you in a child custody or divorce case is not essential, I think you would be best served to have a lawyer if you are a father. While I do not know your circumstances specifically, I can tell you that fathers benefit from the advice and perspective of an attorney just as much as mothers do. If your wife has hired a lawyer to represent her in your divorce case, then you need a lawyer. Hiring a lawyer does not mean that you will make the case contentious or lengthy, but it does mean that you will have assistance available should you need it.
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. These consultations are a great way for you to learn more about the world of Texas family law and the services that our attorneys and staff can provide to you as a client of ours. You can find our attorneys in the family law courts outside Texas daily; then, we take a great deal of pride in being able to serve our community in this way.