If you are involved in a child custody case or a divorce with children, then you may already be familiar with the high-stakes and high-stress environment that comes with a family law case of this sort. While nobody wants to go through these stressful and challenging phases like this, you are often left with no choice. It may be that your family is being pushed to the brink by a Co-parent who has a personality disorder or drug addiction. Or, your children may face special needs and therefore require specialized care by both you and your Co-parent.
When it comes to figuring out how to divide custody between yourself and a co-parent, either after a divorce or child custody case, you all are best off doing so between yourselves and working on a settlement of any outstanding issues. The fact is that while family court judges are well-meaning and as well prepared as possible, the reality of the situation is that nobody knows your children, your life, and one another like you and your Co-parent. This is true even if you all do not agree on every subject under the sun or are not particularly happy with one another at this very moment.
Family court judges tend to make decisions based on a general application of the child custody laws as contained in the Texas family code. This means that there attempts to create a parenting schedule or perform any other jobs on behalf of your family within the case will most likely turn out to look more like a one size fits all proclamation rather than a set of ground rules that are based on your children in your particular circumstances. No matter how long your trial is or how much evidence you outlined in front of the judge, that judge can't know your circumstances better than you do.
With all that said, sometimes, you cannot avoid going to court for a divorce or child custody case. You and your spouse or Co-parent as parties may not be able to work out agreements or talk through the issues of your case. One of you may not have the tools in your toolbox to negotiate well and think objectively about your case. Thus, settlement negotiations and mediation or even informally may prove to be nearly impossible. In the circumstances like that, the courtroom is available to you as a last recourse both in a temporary order setting and in a final order setting.
Or, the circumstances of your case may be so complex and the disagreements between you and your spouse so significant that a trial is a better place for your chance to conclude than mediation. Just because most child custody and divorce cases in Texas do end up settling in mediation does not mean that you should force a settlement when the prospects of a settlement are not excellent for you and your family. If you cannot reach an equitable agreement with your Co-parent in mediation, you have no choice but to see what a judge says after a trial.
Going to trial in a Texas family law case is not the worst thing in the world. The reality is that attempts cost time and money, but if the problem results are favorable or equitable, time and money are usually well spent. However, going to trial means that you need to be aware of the different circumstances involved in that kind of proceeding. Being caught off guard or by surprise due to some element of a trial is certainly not something good for you and your family. Instead, you should ask the appropriate questions before a test and understand the key points and processes involved in child custody or divorce trial in Texas.
Using professionals during a family law trial
In many difficult in high conflict child custody and divorce cases, a judge may designate and name certain professionals to work alongside you and your Co-parent, in the end, an attempt to resolve the fundamental questions being asked and issues being raised in your divorce or child custody case. For instance, child custody experts can be appointed to your topic either if one is requested to be selected by either you or your Co-parent or simply at the judge's wishes in your case. The significance of this occurring in your case and the role of a child custody expert in your divorce or custody case will be the center point of our discussion for the remaining paragraphs of today's blog post.
A child custody expert is not intended to act on behalf of either you or your Co-parent from the top. Instead, the expert is supposed to be there for your child is acting in their best interest. You may be thinking to yourself that you are working in your child's best interest and having filed your divorce or child custody case. However, a court would tell you that the only person whose interest is assumed you are acting in your own best interest. I think we would all agree that a person can believe that they are working in someone else who has been interesting when they are not doing so. Not to say this is the case with you and your child but to have someone involved in the case that explicitly acts in the child's best interest often, a child custody expert will be appointed.
One of the essential steps involved in having a child custody expert appointed to the case is ensuring that the extra witness is neutral. This means that the expert will be disclosed to you, your Co-parent, and the court at the beginning of the case about any conflicts of interest that may be involved here. Additionally, their resume and experience in acting as an amicus or ad litem attorney should be made known to you and your Co-parent from the beginning of a case. This will allow you and your attorney to get to know the expert better and understand the role this expert will play in you and your children's case.
Now that we have established what an expert is in the context of a child custody or divorce case, we can get into the different subgroups of experts in these types of cases. Again, there is no guarantee that any of these people will play a role in your actual child custody or divorce case. However, if you know that the circumstances of your case are pretty complicated and that you and your Co-parent have many different perspectives on them, the odds of an expert brought into your point increased dramatically.
What is the role of a guardian ad litem?
A guardian ad litem is an attorney who acts as the eyes and ears of your judge outside of the courtroom. The guardian ad litem will investigate the circumstances of your case and act as an advocate for your children. When a guardian ad litem is appointed to your case order, it will specify their role within the patient and the scope of the investigation they will undertake on behalf of the judge. As we mentioned earlier in today's blog post, a guardian ad litem can be requested by either attorney involved in your case or can be ordered in appointed on the motion of the judge him or herself.
The guardian ad litem will be paid a fee by both you and your co-parent on behalf of the work done on your case. Please bear in mind that how that fee is divided between the two of you will be determined in large part by your relative incomes and ability to pay. If you earn significantly more money than your Co-parent, you are likely to be the person on the hook for paying more of the ad litem fee. You and your Co-parent can negotiate between yourselves to determine who will pay what as far as the ad litem fees are concerned.
In terms of the work performed by the guardian ad litem, this person will typically be responsible for reviewing any records in the case related to your children, attending hearings, and possibly even testifying in a trial. Perhaps most importantly, the guardian ad litem will interview parties involved in the case and make recommendations to the judge on all matters related to the children. These recommendations are usually summarized in a report submitted to all parties in the court after the case. This usually happens before a trial so that both parties can read the information and determine whether or not they are interested in having a test on child custody matters despite any recommendations that the item may make.
in the context of a Texas family law case, a city evaluator will assess each of her children's needs and both parents' ability to meet those needs in terms of child custody orders. As opposed to a guardian ad litem, a custody evaluator is typically not an attorney but more likely is a psychologist or child counselor. It is recommended that both parents be included in this process because it is essential to the overall determination. Please be aware that the use of test city evaluators is much less every day than a guardian ad litem.
a parenting coordinator is a third-party, independent person who assists you and your Co-parent in resolving any issues related to parenting and your family in general. Parenting coordinators can either be licensed attorneys or frequently are psychologists or family therapists. Just as we have seen with the other witnesses or experts, a parenting coordinator can either be appointed by the judge on their motion or by requests of either you or your Co-parent. the parenting coordinator would hear from both you and your co-parent on any issues in your case he may even choose to interview your children.
Just as a guardian ad litem would do, the parenting coordinator would write a report for the judge with their recommendations on how to resolve each issue. The parenting coordinator acts as a judge in many respects. They observe the circumstances of a case, pick out the essential points, and work to resolve them as best as possible, thinking along the lines of what is in the children's best interests. The best parenting coordinators can take complex issues and make them simple. This can be a valuable resource for family court judges who cannot constantly oversee a case and daily weigh in on critical issues.
How will your attorney with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan approach experts in a child custody setting?
As we have just seen, the opinions of a child custody expert can have significant ramifications on your case and a judge's decision. Keep in mind that a family court judge has the final say-so on any matter related to your lawsuit. However, we treat these experts as having significant roles insofar as they can impact and influence the decision of a family court judge. We work to ensure as best as possible that experts are paid timely and are treated with respect by our attorneys and clients.
It is my opinion that making a solid impression upon an expert in this setting is essential. Just as it comes to interacting with people in our daily lives, you did treat these witnesses and experts with a great deal of respect and be as honest as possible with them throughout their interactions with you. It should not surprise him that your ability to interact with them will influence their ultimate decisions regarding your case.
Another important aspect of this discussion will be your attorney from our office working closely with the opposing attorney and the expert throughout the case. Your attorney must stay in conversation with the expert during the issue so that there is no doubt about any questions in your case. For instance, the last thing you want in a topic is for an attorney ad litem or guarding ad litem against having a misconception about some aspect of the case. Their entire decision could be based on a misunderstanding or misinterpretation of a circumstance.
For this reason, our attorneys in staff liked to be as cooperative as possible in the process while advocating for you and your family throughout the case in all settings. The specific circumstances in your case will influence the ultimate decisions made by these experts and the judge. However, there are general ways of conducting ourselves that can be productive and helpful in achieving an equitable result for you only.
Finally, we will work with you as a client to ensure that you know what kind of questions these experts may ask you and how immediate responses can influence a judge's decisions at the end of a case. We do not take for granted that we have more experience dealing with this kind of folks versus you. In your line of work, it is probably not commonplace for you to interact with expert witnesses of this type. As a result, we will coach you and help you understand how to answer questions and discuss matters related to your family with these witnesses.
Experts in a child custody case are there to do what is best for your children, and almost every expert we work with takes that responsibility very seriously. That will be our goal two ensure that the expert's work on your family's behalf is done professionally and with the totality of the circumstances mindset playing the most critical role. Otherwise, our attorneys and staff will serve you by positioning your case as best as possible so that you can present well to these experts.
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 in person, over the phone, or via video. These consultations are an excellent way for you to learn more about the world of Texas family law and how your family circumstances may be impacted by the filing of a divorce or child custody case. I appreciate your interest in our law practice, and we hope you will join us again tomorrow as we share another blog post related to Texas family law.