Austin Child Custody Conservatorship Lawyers
When couples with children divorce, determining who will have custody of the child can be a complicated process. In Texas, custody is known as conservatorship, and a court may award sole managing conservatorship (SMC) or joint managing conservatorship (JMC).
Whenever possible, and if both parents are fit to care for their child, the court will award JMC, because having both parents involved in a child’s upbringing is usually in the child’s best interest. But if one parent has a history of abusing drugs or alcohol, neglectful or violent acts involving family members, or a criminal history, the court may award SMC to the other parent.
Couples are often able to amicably work out custody agreements and establish a parenting plan that defines a schedule for the non-custodial parent to see his or her child. Sometimes, though, couples are unable to reach an agreement, and the process of determining a child’s future living arrangements drags on much longer than anticipated.
Even if you anticipate your spouse will be cooperative about your child custody arrangements, having your own attorney can ensure the best possible outcome for you and your children.
Once a court issues a ruling on conservatorship, changing that ruling is a legal process that can be complicated – especially if the other parent disagrees with the notion that custody should be modified.
Parents wishing to modify custody must file the appropriate pleadings in what is referred to as Suit to Modify The Parent-Child Relationship. Upon receipt of these pleadings and of the hearing on these requests, the court reviews it and may deny the modification request or modify any or all of the individual components of conservatorship, which include:
- Rights and Duties such as the right to make decisions about a child’s education or medical care
- Child Support
- Medical Support
There are many reasons why one parent might want to modify conservatorship. For example, if a parent must relocate for work, a previously established visitation schedule may no longer be practical. And if one parent is paying child support but experiences prolonged economic hardship, he or she may ask the court to review and revise the monthly child-support obligations. Whatever the reason for seeking to modify conservatorship, the petitioning parent must prove to the court that the requested changes are in the child’s best interest, along with one of the following points:
- Circumstances have materially or substantially changed.
- The child is at least 12 years old and has told the judge which parent he or she wants to live with.
- The custodial parent has allowed another person to have primary custody of the child for at least six months.
Grandparents and Custody
About 8 percent of children in the United States are raised by their grandparents, and in Texas, upwards of 500,000 grandparents have found themselves in this role.
Some of the reasons grandparents become caregivers for their grandchildren are that the child’s parent or parents are:
- Abusing drugs or alcohol
- Unable to financially support the child
- Absent from the home for long periods, leaving the child alone
- Living with a person who mistreats or endangers the child.
In some instances, grandparents care for their grandchildren temporarily, until the parent is better able to provide a safe, supportive environment. But many parents continue to be unable or unwilling to care for their child, and that’s when grandparents may wish to seek conservatorship.
A grandparent wanting conservatorship should first ask the grandchild’s parent or parents for permission, because courts are more likely to grant a conservatorship request when both parents agree to it. Some parents won’t agree, but the petitioning grandparent may be able to prove to the court that a child is in some way endangered by living with that parent or parents and would be better served by living with the grandparents appointed by conservators.
Help for Families
Texas courts aim to preserve family relationships whenever possible by favoring joint conservatorship and establishing parenting time guidelines that give parents appropriate access to their children. With the help of the Evans & Herlihy Law Firm, families can ensure that their formal legal agreements are in the best interest of their children. Call us today at 1-855-414-1012, or complete our contact form.