When going through a divorce or child custody case, any issues related to your children will likely be at the top of your list in terms of importance. Sure, if you are going through a divorce, you may have some goals regarding the division of the community property or even the awarding of benefits like spousal maintenance. However, even then issues regarding child custody will likely take precedence over anything else involved in your case. For that reason, I think it will be helpful to share some information about child custody-related circumstances so that you can better prepare for your case.
Not only can child custody cases be complex in terms of the subject matter but they are oftentimes emotionally difficult, as well. You need to be able to contend with the issues associated with raising your child with a Co-parent and not always seeing eye to eye with him or her. Not only is this a concern for the divorce case itself but also in your life after the divorce. Simply arriving at custody orders is just the beginning of your journey. This is something that I tell people going through divorces all the time just because your marriage to the person is coming to an end does not mean that your relationship with him or she will be ending. The most important aspects of your relationship are just beginning as you close out one season of your life and open another.
For those of you who will be going through a child custody case without a divorce then all you must concern yourself with is our matters related to your children. Make sure that your kids and their best interests are looked after in addition to matters related to visitation and the logistics surrounding possession. You should not assume that a child custody case will be any less complex than a divorce. All the focus on your children gives you and your Co-parent plenty of opportunity to make things even more complicated than they may be in a divorce. Coming up with a plan is incredibly important to success both now during your child custody case and after your case is over with.
Before we answer some FAQ about child custody cases in Texas, I wanted to walk through something that I think is incredibly important as it pertains to your case. Namely, being as intentional as you can be when it comes to your case. No matter if this is your first or 15th time going through the family courts of Texas, it pays to be able to have a plan and execute that plan. If not, there is a distinct possibility that not only will you not be happy with the result of the case but your children’s best interests will not be served, either.
Be intentional about matters related to child custody
It is easy to wander into a child custody case. All it takes is some bad luck in a relationship or circumstances beyond your control to find yourself having to sort out complicated steps regarding a child custody-related matter. For many of you reading this blog post, this process begins with you or your Co-parent asking the court to assign child support on behalf of your children in some instances, if you are a father then you may have asked the court in your petition to establish child custody orders related to possession or visitation.
Let me run a situation past you and you can tell me if it sounds like anything familiar to you. A few years back you were in a relationship with someone, and a child was born of that relationship. You and the child's mother were not interested in being married but you very much want to be a part of your child's life. It started fine with the child's mother allowing you to visit with him whenever you chose. When you were able, you paid child support and helped out with the cost associated with formula and diapers. You thought that everything was good between you and your child's mother.
However, the next thing you knew the child's mother was making visitation and possession with the child more and more difficult. Rather than allowing you to see your son as often as you wanted to, you are now given only a few days per month that you could see him. In addition, you were being asked to pay steadily more and more children support each month period it was getting to the point where the Child Support that was being asked of you was more than you could afford to pay during the time with your child was getting more and more sporadic. It didn't take an expert in child custody to see that this was not a long-term plan. Given these limitations, you realized that you had no choice but to seek out legal representation to the even playing field between you and your Co-parent.
This is what I mean when I say that you can wander into a child custody case, but you cannot wander out of 1 with any chance of success. so, if you are a father who simply wants to be able to spend time with your child and pay a consistent amount of child support what are your options? What do you need to look out for? Who can you turn to for assistance? Do women and mothers generally have an advantage in custody situations against men and fathers? These are the questions that I would like to get into today in this blog post so that you can feel more prepared in better trained to engage in what may prove to be the most important process that you are ever involved in as an adult.
Do mothers have an advantage over fathers when it comes to child custody cases?
One of the first issues that will typically come up in a circumstance where a father like you is finding out information regarding child custody cases in Texas is that a question will frequently arise regarding any inherent or explicit advantages that a mother may have regarding a child custody case versus a father. I am assuming that almost all of us have heard rumors or beliefs about family law cases where the presumption is that women have a distinct advantage over men when it comes to any number of subjects regarding the case. Most notably, the belief in this regard has to do with being able to win primary custody of children.
For many fathers, winning primary custody of their kids represents an important goal. You may struggle to have consistent time with your children before the beginning of a child custody case. As a result, your goal may be to win primary custody, so you are not in a position where you have to rely upon your parent to facilitate custody. Even with a court order in place, you may not fully trust your Co-parent to follow the rules and allow you to have the custody that your court order says that you should have. The bottom line may be that you simply believe that your child is better suited to have you as your primary caretaker than your Co-parent.
The thought that your child's mother may have an inherent advantage over you simply because she is the mother of your child he's a thought that may have crossed your mind, as well. In some situations, mothers may have somewhat of advantage simply because they filed their case first or had always been the primary caretaker of children. Additionally, you may have people in your life who are not shy about sharing their bad experiences in a child custody case where the mother was able to win primary custody and seemingly anything else she wanted. All this may have coalesced into a strongly held belief on your part that mothers tend to get what they want out of a child custody case. How true is this?
To begin with, there is nothing explicitly in the Texas family code that states women have any advantage or women in terms of being awarded custody of children. The Texas family code explicitly states that women and mothers are not to be given preference over fathers and men absent other circumstances when it comes to awarding custody and conservatorships rights. As a result, you should head into your child custody case against the father with the knowledge that a judge cannot and will not likely give any advantage to your child's mother regarding custody rights simply because she is the mother, and you are the father. The law does not put the thumb on the scale of justice in favor of the child's mother.
wait for a second, you may be saying. If that's true, then why are women seem more likely to be named as the primary conservator of children? Additionally, why do you hardly ever see men and fathers in a position to receive child support versus women and mothers? At the end of the day, a family court judge would make decisions in your case regarding conservatorship in custody rights based on the best interest of your children. Judges are typically not interested in rocking the applecart or changing up your child's life to a significant extent. This means that if your child's mother has been his or her primary caretaker for nearly all their life then that is likely to be the outcome of a child custody case. This is true no matter how much you would like to be the primary caretaker of your child moving forward.
Understandably, you may not have been able to act as the primary caretaker of your child as he or she was growing up. Much of the time fathers work outside the home and or are otherwise unable to act as the primary caretaker. This means that the primary responsibility to be at home when your child gets home from school, take your child to the doctor, or help your child with homework probably fell to your child's mother. Again, this does not make you an irresponsible or bad parent. Rather comment simply reflects the reality that for most families the father spends less time on a day-to-day basis with the children than does the mother.
So where does this put you regarding your child custody case? Well, if the father that I was describing in our hypothetical example sounds like you then you should know that you have an opportunity to win primary custody. There are almost always factors that can contribute to a judge’s decision-making that many people do not realize from the outset. For example, if you work a work schedule that allows for you to have a great deal of consistency and flexibility then this is a point in your favor. Additionally, if you have been able to spend a great deal of time with your children then this should also be seen as a point in your favor as far as being able to win primary custody rights. Even if you are not able to win primary custody, you may still be able to negotiate for an even split of custody time and conservatorships rights and duties. While you would not explicitly be the primary Conservatory of your child you would have the same rights and duties to your child as your Co-parent.
The bottom line is that you should not go into your child custody case assuming that your child's mother has every advantage over you when it comes to the awarding of conservatorships rights and duties. Judges do not see others as better parents or more fit to act as the primary caretaker. However, women and mothers are probably named primary conservatories more frequently than men if only because that is the role that they have typically filled for their child to that point. Judges are extremely conservative in terms of looking at the best interest of your child. If you have been unable to care for your childhood on a primary basis before the child custody case your Co-parent has an advantage in that regard as far as being named primary conservator.
Do I need to hire an attorney for my child custody case?
This is an extremely important question is one that I would like to conclude today's blog post by discussing in detail. There is no requirement in the Texas family code that you hire a lawyer before becoming involved in a child custody case. However, that does not mean that it isn't worth your time 2 fire where or that you cannot gain an advantage from doing so. Here are my thoughts on this subject in terms of your ability to proceed with a child custody case.
When you are beginning a process that you have no experience in it is wise to seek the counsel of a person who has been there before. For example, if you have a cavity would you consider drilling your teeth? Or, if you are experiencing an issue with your car's transmission would you consider getting under the hood yourself and fixing the vehicle? While I am sure that some dentists are reading this blog post as well as mechanics, I think it is fair to say that for most people reading this blog post the answer to both of these questions would be no. Rather, you would look to someone who has been there and done that and you operate in those two areas daily.
This is where there is a distinct advantage for you and your family when it comes to hiring an attorney for your child custody case. Make no mistake, having to go through a child custody case is not very much fun. On top of that, hiring a lawyer for your case is not a guarantee of any type of success. However, what hiring an attorney does do for you and your family he's put you in a position where you can focus on goal setting and thinking about the best interests of your children rather than having to manage the entirety of your family law case.
Make no mistake: you will still be making the decisions in your case when you hire a lawyer. However, you are attorney will handle the logistical issues associated with their cases like making sure documents are filed on time and helping you to meet certain deadlines with discovery and things of that nature. You can think of an attorney as a copilot who is helping you avoid turbulence and get to your destination in one piece. This is incredibly important for your case and is a short-term investment into your and your child's long-term future.
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, and via video. These consultations are a great way for you to learn more about the world of Texas family law as well as about how your family circumstances may be impacted by the filing of a divorce or child custody case.