Child Custody Attorney

Perhaps the most contentious issue in a divorce is the matter of child custody.

Austin Family Lawyer

When children are involved, parents try to strike a balance between independence from their former spouse and maintaining a relationship in which both parents can have a meaningful connection with their children. Every situation is different, and the custody of a child depends greatly on the nature of the divorce and the decisions made by family courts.

The family law attorneys at the Evans Law Firm will serve as fierce advocates for your cause, making sure that you and your child’s interests are being represented.

Conservatorship

The courts will consider several factors to determine “conservatorship” – the role and responsibilities of the parents. Courts consider the income generated by parents, the health of the parents, the child’s age and preferences, the child’s emotional and physical needs, the ability to provide a stable environment, any history of abuse or neglect, and the ability to provide overall care for the child, among other factors. The court cannot consider the parent’s marital status or the sex of either the parent or the child as a factor in determining conservatorship.

These factors will determine whether parents have joint managing conservatorship (JMC) or whether one parent has sole managing conservatorship (SMC). In a JMC arrangement, both parents share the rights and responsibilities of a parent; however, a judge may still award the exclusive right to make certain decisions to one parent only. If a judge names both parents as joint conservators, he will also specify which responsibility each parent has separately as well as those they share jointly.

An SMC gives only one parent the legal right to make certain decisions for the child, including decisions about primary residence, medical treatment, and education. An SMC may also allow one parent to receive child support.

In Texas, child support is usually paid by the non-custodial parent until the child reaches 18 years of age, or longer if the child is disabled.

Parental Access

Courts will often consider many of the same factors when deciding the level of access each parent has to the child. As opposed to conservatorship, “access” has less to do with the decisions parents can make over the child’s care, and centers mostly on the amount of time each parent will be able to spend with the child. The courts will also consider the wishes and agreements of the parents.

The custodial parent has the legal right to decide where the child will live, but the noncustodial parent has the legal right to spend time with the child and know the whereabouts of the child. In Texas, the rights each parent has in relation to the time spent with a child are determined by possession orders. There are several types of possession orders – Standard Possession Orders, Modified Possession Orders, Possession Orders for a Child Under 3, and Supervised Possession Orders – each with their own specified rules.

Under a Standard Possession Order, the parents can set whatever schedule they both agree on. If they can’t reach an agreement, the non-custodial parent has the right to possession the first, third, and fifth weekends of every month; Thursday evenings during the school year; alternating holidays; and 30 days during the child’s summer vacation. If the parents live more than 100 miles apart, the schedule may change accordingly.

A Modified Possession Order allows for any needed changes to be made to the Standard Possession Order. Special considerations may apply if the child is under 3 or if a judge’s concern for the child’s safety leads to an order for supervised possession.

Changes to Custody Orders

If one parent believes that their living situation has changed to a degree that warrants a change in custody, they can seek a modification of custody orders. It will be up to the parent seeking changes to prove that either or both parents’ situations have improved (or deteriorated) the point that courts should alter the original order.

For those that are considering a divorce and are concerned about a potential custody dispute, it is important to enlist the help of an attorney familiar with divorce and custody matters in Texas. An experienced attorney will be able to give you legal advice that positions you for a successful pursuit of the custody of your child.

If you are in the process of a divorce or considering modifications to your custody order, a child custody attorney at the Evans Law Firm can help. We will evaluate your case to determine your best course of action. Contact us today to learn more.