Child Custody

Houston Child Custody Attorney

Protect Your Child’s Future – Call (281) 810-9760

Child custody cases can be among the most rewarding in all of family law. However, to achieve your goals within a child custody case you need to have a well-developed strategy that focuses on the achievement of those goals. The attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan can equip you with the legal know-how to help achieve those goals. On top of that, we have the heart of a teacher- geared towards ensuring you understand the law, your circumstances, and how the two relate to one another.

Walking side by side with our clients is an honor for our attorneys and staff. We take the time to get to know our clients, their families, and their goals so that we can serve them better. When you decide to invest your time, resources, and family success in our office we want to go the extra mile for you. With that said, we also understand that there are challenges that come alongside every family law case. Deciding to hire our office to represent you means that you will have the skills and experience that are necessary to adjust to those challenges while still maintaining your goals.

Beginning a child custody case: Filing an Original Petition in a Suit Affecting the Parent-Child Relationship

To start a child custody case, you would need to file a Petition in Suit Affecting the Parent-Child Relationship (SAPCR). This name sounds daunting, but please do not let it deter you from starting your case. To “petition” the court means simply to ask for something. Suit Affecting the Parent-Child Relationship means that you are filing a lawsuit that impacts the legal relationship between you and your children. Petitions are not complex in many cases. You will introduce the court to your children and possibly request temporary orders.

Where do you need to file your petition?

The court where you file your petition will need to have jurisdiction over your child custody case. Jurisdiction means that the court will have the legal ability to issue orders and hear arguments. In a child custody case, jurisdiction is determined by where your children reside. The county where your children have resided for at least the past six months before your case was filed is the county that has jurisdiction. Working with an experienced family law attorney with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan can help ensure that your case is filed in the correct court and that you do not lose time from the very start of the case.

This is one of the most important questions that you can ask yourself throughout the entire child custody case. In some instances, you may be looking at a case where you need to act quickly. Filing the case in the wrong jurisdiction because of a mistake can cost you not only time and money but also the well-being of your child. When time is of the essence and you need to get off to a fast start, working with an experienced family law attorney with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan is essential.

What to do when your co-parent files a SAPCR

Don’t panic if your co-parent files a SAPCR. Take a deep breath and speak with an attorney about where to go from there. An Answer to the SAPCR would need to be filed within approximately twenty days of being served with the SAPCR lawsuit. This does not need to be a complex document by any means. You may issue a general denial within the Answer and decide to file a counterpetition wherein you request relief of your own from the court. Working with an experienced family law attorney can help ensure that you meet the filing deadline for an Answer.

You should review the Petition filed by your co-parent and work to determine what sort of relief he or she wants to receive from the court in this case. It may be that there is some middle ground that can be reached. For example, if you have primary custody of your child but your co0parent wants to ask for an extra weekend of possession every other month then you may have some middle ground which can be reached on this subject.

On the other hand, if your co-parent is asking to become the primary conservator of your child in this lawsuit then there may not be much middle ground at all. This puts you in a position where you would need to think long and hard about how to prepare for a trial. Fortunately for you, there is a way for you to continue to negotiate while learning as much as you can about the case of your co-parent. This is known as discovery.

Discover the case of your co-parent

Discovery is an incredibly valuable time within a child custody case. When you make requests of your co-parent for information about their case you are performing some basic detective work. Imagine a situation where you were not able to go back into your home after your significant other ended your relationship. This made life difficult as far as being able to get your belongings back. However, it also stands to make your child custody case more complex. By submitting discovery requests to your co-parent, you can learn the answers to different questions you may have heading into your case.

Whatever information you gather during the discovery phase of your case can be used to help you determine whether it is prudent to move forward to a trial. Think of discovery as an opportunity to look at your spouse’s “cards” before you decide whether to up the ante or stay where you are. Asking and answering discovery requests is a major part of a child custody case and works best when you and your attorney can act as a team together. Keep in mind that there are valid objections that you can make to these requests submitted by your co-parent. An attorney can help you identify when it is appropriate to object and what objections to offer.

By the same token, you want to ask and submit discovery requests to your co-parent which cannot be objected to easily. Good attorneys can artfully draft questions and requests in discovery that opposing attorneys cannot object to validly. Then, if your opposing attorney does improperly offer objections your attorney can hold the co-parent to task by requesting a hearing before a judge and hold him or her responsible. This is not something that can easily be identified by you without an attorney. It can make a major difference in the case whether you have been able to take advantage of the opportunities in discovery.

Child support- a contentious issue that you can’t afford to overlook

Of all the issues in a Texas child custody case, child support is among the most contentious. There is something about a situation where you are involved with relatively large sums of money being exchanged with a co-parent that causes stress to jump through the roof. Whether you are the parent who receives or pays child support there is no question that how child support works out in your case will affect your child, your budget, and your life overall for years to come.

First, child support will very likely need to be paid in your child custody case. One of the most asked questions that we receive here at the Law Office of Bryan Fagan is whether “your” case will involve the payment of child support. Our response is typically that a family court judge will not sign off on child support final orders unless they contain child support. Additionally, a judge will not conclude a child custody trial unless he or she has ordered child custody to be paid.

The reason for this is that parents in Texas have a legal obligation to care for their children. Part of that care is to be able to financially provide for them. Therefore, no matter how even your possession time with the kids is, either you or your co-parent will be expected to pay child support. Be prepared to understand this topic and then negotiate on it with your co-parent. Here are the most significant parts of the child support topic broken down piece by piece.

First, child support is paid by the parent who has visitation rights rather than the parent with whom your child resides primarily. The reason for this is that the parent with visitation rights will be spending less time with the child. The parent with primary custody will have more time with the child and more of a responsibility to pay for items. Child support attempts to even the playing field by putting the parent with visitation rights in a position where he or she contributes to the well-being of the child even when the parent and child are not physically together.

Child support calculations

Child support is frequently based on the guideline levels of support as contained in the Texas Family Code. These guidelines are frequently utilized by courts across Texas to implement child support in family law cases. The judge in your case will presume that awarding child support based upon the structure contained in the child support guidelines is appropriate and in the best interests of your child. We will talk momentarily about how the guideline levels of child support may not be in the best interests of your child.

However, for now, let’s go through the guideline levels of support to determine what they say and what that can mean for your family moving forward. In general, the parent who pays child support will do so based on their net monthly income and how many children are presently before the court. These are the two most significant factors when it comes to calculating child support for most Texas families. With only two factors being the most important, child support can seem to be less complex than it is.

This is where knowing the ins and outs of child support can be a major advantage for you and your children. First, determining the number of children presently before the court is not difficult. Beginning with one child, 20% of a parent’s net monthly income is paid towards the support of that child. This percentage increases by increments of 5% for each child up to 6. At that point, no less than 40% of a parent’s net monthly income will be paid monthly in child support. At most, a family court can order that up to 50% of a parent’s net monthly income can be paid in child support.

The percentage of net monthly income paid in child support can vary depending upon whether the paying parent has other children for whom he or she is responsible for supporting who are not in front of this court. For example, if a parent has a child to whom he pays support who is not involved in the present family law case, a 2.5% reduction in support would apply to the present case based on the Texas Family Code’s guidelines.

Having a family law attorney to walk with during a child custody case is crucial when determining the paying parent’s net monthly income. For some of you reading this introduction to child custody cases, your net monthly income will not be difficult to figure out. For example, if you have a salaried job where you earn the same amount of money month over month then it should not take too much time or effort to calculate your income.

On the other hand, if you work multiple jobs, and earn tips, commissions, or other forms of income based on your employment then it may be substantially more difficult to calculate your net monthly income. As a parent who may be paying child support, you will want to be able to have your income properly calculated because you do not want more than your fair share to be paid in child support. This does not mean that you do not want to support your child. However, having more than the appropriate amount of child support paid to your co-parent can put you in a tough position as far as your budget is concerned,

If you are the parent who expects to receive child support in the child custody case, then you will want to make sure that every dime of your co-parent’s net monthly income is taken into consideration. Many times, a parent’s income will not necessarily be secret but it will be somewhat of a mystery. It may have been many years, if ever, that you knew where your co-parent earned their income from. Not to mention that your co-parent may have multiple streams of income that you need to uncover.

For those situations, having the advice, perspective, and guidance of an experienced family law attorney by your side can be critical. Relying on an experienced family law attorney with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan does not mean that you are putting your case on auto-pilot. Rather, it means that you are allowing someone who has been there before to help you. An attorney from our office does not make decisions for you. Rather, we help you by working alongside you, providing key information, and allowing you to make decisions for yourself.

How is child support paid?

After your child custody case, a wage withholding order will be signed by a judge that will be sent to your employer. That wage withholding order will state the amount of your wages that must be withheld and the frequency with which the withholding must occur. When the child support is withheld from your paycheck it will be sent to your co-parent through the Office of the Attorney General Child Support Division.

If you are the parent who pays child support, then it will be up to you as far as make sure that the child support is paid on time and in full each month. For example, if you change jobs and do not update the court then you are still responsible for making sure that the child support is paid appropriately each month even though the wage withholding order no longer applies to your new place of employment. The failure to pay child support each month can lead to the filing of an enforcement lawsuit against you.

It is key to understand your court orders when it comes to child support. Review your child support orders before the end of your child custody case to make sure that you are clear on what your responsibilities are. An experienced family law attorney with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan can help you to understand more readily what to expect when it comes to child support and your case. With so many moving pieces within this area of a child custody case deciding to hire an attorney could be the best move you make throughout the case.

What happens if child support is not paid?

When a child support payment is missed there may be a reasonable explanation. Parents lose jobs and need to find replacement employment regularly. This is not a defense to not paying child support, but it does happen. If a parent cannot make that month’s child support payment, then he or she should communicate this to their co-parent as soon as possible. This is why developing a good co-parenting relationship can be extremely beneficial.

However, if a parent makes it a habit to not pay child support, then this is a different conversation altogether. When household budgets depend upon child support making this payment is critical to ensuring that a child has what he or she needs to live their life. Once it becomes clear that the missed child support payments are being habitual, further action may need to be taken by the parent who receives the child support.

This further action is known as a child support enforcement case. Please note that a child support enforcement case can be filed either during an initial child custody case or as a stand-alone case once the initial case has completed itself. The purpose of an enforcement case is to hold a parent responsible for not having paid child support on time and in full. The Office of the Attorney General Child Support Division has a website that provides an up-to-date run-down of the amount of child support that is owed. Both parents have equal opportunity to verify payments, arrearages and all the other details which correspond to child support.

In a child support enforcement case, the parent who files the lawsuit would detail in their petition to the judge the specific dates that their co-parent has violated their court order related to child support. From there, the total amount of arrearages would need to be specified. Finally, a parent can ask for relief from the court as far as getting their co-parent on a repayment schedule as soon as possible. There are penalties associated with the non-payment of child support which can be implemented in a child support enforcement hearing, as well.

Conservatorship is the key to any child custody case

We are all familiar with the term “child custody.” With that said, would it surprise you to learn that this phrase does not appear in the Texas Family Code even once? Child custody is such a familiar term that the public, attorneys, and even judges use it regularly in discussing matters having to do with children and their relationship to their parents. We can think of custody to quickly refer to several different topics that relate to the parent-child relationship. Terms like “full custody,” “split custody,” and “joint custody” are commonly used in the context of a family law case involving a minor child.

While we use the term custody with great frequency, the actual term that is utilized in Texas family law to describe issues related to the parent-child relationship is “conservatorship.” Conservatorship pertains to rights and duties that one person can have concerning another. In the context of a family law case, conservatorship rights and duties relate to a parent and their legal duty to care for their child. With that duty comes certain rights the parent has to make decisions on behalf of that child.

Parents are presumed to make decisions that are in the best interests of a child. This is the legal standard that will be utilized across the board in a child custody case involving your child, as well. When a court issues orders in a child custody case it does so under the presumption that what it is doing is in the best interests of your child. The presumption also attaches to the decisions that you make on behalf of your child. This presumption can be overcome in certain situations with sufficient evidence. However, the key here is that a conservator is presumed to make decisions in line with the best interests of their child.

What rights do you have as a parent concerning your child? The right to make decisions regarding the financial well-being of your minor child. Another right is the ability to determine the religion practiced by your child (if any). In certain situations, you will also have the right to consent to your child marrying (if still a minor) as well as the ability of your child to engage in military service. These are typically rights that are held jointly with a co-parent. This means that both parents either have independent rights to make decisions on certain subjects, as with religious practices or need to make these decisions jointly with a co-parent, as with military service.

One of the most important rights that a parent can have is the right to determine the primary residence of their child. Of all the rights that are negotiated within a child custody case, this is the most contentious. The right to determine the primary residence of a child carries with it the ability to determine where the child will live throughout the year. This does not mean that the child will not be able to visit the other parent, but the parent with primary “custody” determines where the child lives.

Not only does this right carry with it the ability to spend more time with the child as far as possession is concerned, but it allows that parent to receive child support as well. Conversely, the parent who has visitation rights to the child will have a duty to pay child support to their co-parent. You can see why this is such a hotly debated topic in child custody cases. Being the primary conservator of a child also allows for that parent to be able to determine what school the child is zoned to, as far as school districts are concerned.

Mediation as a means to avoid a trial

One of the most important phases of a child custody case is known as mediation. Mediation is mandatory in most family courts across Texas to avoid going to trial to complete your case. When parents attend mediation, they mutually agree to a third-party mediator interceding in the case to help them sort out any remaining issues that have not been settled. As you can see, in any child custody case many issues need to be settled before the end of the case. If you and your co-parent are unable to do so in informal settlement negotiations, then a mediator can be brought into the case.

A mediator is very likely a practicing family law attorney who also acts as a mediator or is a former judge who has since retired. The mediator will invite you (and your attorney) and your co-parent (and their attorney) to their office for either a full-day or half-day session depending upon the extent of the issues in your case. When that mediation session occurs, the mediator will act like a ping pong ball, bouncing between you and your co-parent to communicate settlement offers, provide feedback and generally help the two sides to a settlement if possible.

If a settlement is reached, then the mediator will type out those agreements into a document known as a Mediated Settlement Agreement. This document will be the basis for both your and your co-parent’s final orders in your child custody lawsuit. By mediating and settling your child custody case, you and your co-parent can avoid a trial where a family court judge has the final say in this matter. This is preferable given that nobody knows your child better than you and your co-parent.

Interested in learning more about a child custody case? Set up a free-of-charge consultation with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan

As with any family law case, your child custody matter depends a great deal on the specific facts and circumstances that you and your child are facing. Fortunately, a child custody case does not mean that you must go it alone. The attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan are proud to serve parents like you across the state of Texas. We can walk alongside you in whatever child custody circumstances you are working through to help you achieve specific goals in your case. The decision to hire an attorney is a short-term investment into the long-term success and happiness of your family. This responsibility is one that our attorneys and staff take seriously.

Ready to learn more about the Law Office of Bryan Fagan? Please contact us today for a free-of-charge consultation with one of our experienced family law attorneys. In this setting, you can meet with us in person, over the phone, or via video. A conversation with one of our attorneys where you can ask questions and receive feedback is invaluable during a time when you are trying to collect trustworthy information on how to best help your child. We proudly serve parents across Texas and hope to be able to do the same for you and your family in your child custody case.

Child custody can be arranged in several different ways. Both parents can have equal custody of the children post-divorce, or one parent may have majority or sole custody. Normally, the court arranges this after evaluating the parents and their relationship with their children. Also, the court will need to evaluate whether or not parents could work together in a joint custody relationship.

  • Joint Custody: When both parents have some degree of custody over the children
  • Sole Custody: When one parent has primary custody over the child
  • Legal Custody: Designated for the parent who makes decisions regarding education, medical care, religion, etc.
  • Physical Custody: Designated for the parent that owns the residence where the child lives

The courts can award joint legal or physical custody and may require ex-spouses to split their time with the child equally or in a most convenient percentage.

How Does the Court Determine the Best Interests of the Child?

If the court is responsible for determining child custody in your case, then they will decide the matter in what they conclude to be the best interests of the child.

In order to act in the best interests of the child, the court evaluates:

Why Mediation Benefits Both Parties

The courts in Texas encourage spouses to work through child custody plans together using a mediator. At the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC, the firm can provide you with a trustworthy and helpful mediator. In mediation, you and your spouse will sit down and calmly work out a custody plan that works best for both of you and one that helps the children. The judge normally adopts the parents’ plan unless it is not in the best interests of the child. This can help keep your children out of court and maintain a calm atmosphere in the home.

Regardless of how complicated matters may seem, the team does everything in their power to help clients reach favorable results. Clients always work directly with our Houston child custody attorneys, and the team always strives to go above and beyond what is expected of them.

For more information about child custody including custody modifications, or to schedule your free case evaluation, be sure to contact the firm!

You Might Also Be Interested In:

Get started on your child custody case by contacting the firm today to set up your free and confidential consultation! Ensure what matters most to you is protected! Give the firm a call at (281) 810-9760 to set up your free evaluation.

FREE Child Custody E-Book
He made the process so easy.

I was going through a divorce and had no idea what to do. I found Bryan Fagan and his team and I decided to give him a try. He made the process so easy. If you want an attorney who will take care of you he’s your guy.

Really awesome group of people at this office.

Every person at this office has been extremely pleasant. From the personnel working the reception area, to the finance group, to the attorneys, as well as Bryan himself, and they all have such a welcoming attitude and that is something that is comforting during a difficult time. My attorney Kyle Pinkerton is great and Michael […]

I would recommend this firm to anyone.

Everyone at this firm has been great. Michael Tijerina has responded in a timely manner to every email that my family and I have sent. Hes been very helpful and informative. I would recommend this firm to anyone.

Absolutely amazing company.

Everyone I spoke with was very kind and helpful. Sam and Karen were very, very patient with me and I greatly appreciate that. They took the time to answer all my questions and make sure I was taken care of. The finance woman, oh how I wish I remembered her name, she was absolutely AMAZING. […]

Extremely knowledgeable, helpful, kind, informative, and professional.

Connie-Ann was an extremely knowledgeable, helpful, kind, informative, and professional. I will continue to work with these great folks and will suggest anyone needing legal advice and help to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan!!!

Open minded, patient, professional.

For fathers that are very involved in their kids lives and have to deal with the nightmare of divorce I would highly recommend Bryan Fagan and request specifically Jessica Horace and her paralegal Estrellita Ventura. Jessica is a strong and true advocate for fathers in the courtroom and has an assassins’ vibe where opposing counsel […]

Family Law & Estate Planning Forms

Contact Us

The First Step is Starting the Conversation

"(Required)" indicates required fields

Our Blog

The Road to Clarity Parental Rights and Child Custody in Texas

How a Child’s Age Can Significantly Impact Custody Arrangements in Texas

Child Custody Geographic Restrictions in Texas