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Using Kids as Pawns in Divorce

Using Kids as Pawns in Divorce

Using Kids as Pawns in Divorce is Harmful to Everyone

There are no winners when children are drawn into divorce conflicts.

Divorce is stressful enough for parents and children, but when parents use their kids as pawns, they may be subjecting them to irreparable harm. Children are caught in the middle and may become confused. Their sense of security and self-esteem may be damaged, and they may wind up blaming themselves. By putting children in a situation where they feel they have to choose between their parents, parents further destroy their relationship with each other and are unable to cooperate and co-parent in a manner that is in the child’s best interests. Children may resent and withdraw from their parents, creating long-term repercussions. In extreme cases, a judge might find the children could be endangered by both parents, and may even order the children to be placed in foster care. When children are used as pawns in a divorce battle, everyone loses.

If you find yourself in a divorce situation where your children are being used as pawns by the other partner, the Austin, Texas, family law attorneys at the Evans & Herlihy Law Firm can help. We understand the importance of parents’ coming to agreements on issues that affect the children, and we know that the well-being of the child should come first. When this fails to happen, we will serve as fierce advocates for your cause, fighting to represent your interests and those of your children.

Texas laws regarding children in divorce are complicated, but you do not have to navigate the legal and emotional hurdles alone. Our compassionate attorneys understand what you are going through; we offer a free consultation to discuss the facts of your individual situation and show you how we can help. Call us today at (512) 732-2727.

Why Parents Use Kids as Pawns – What Are the Issues?

Most often, conflict arises between parents due to issues regarding child custody battles and visitation. Texas has its own terms for “custody” and “visitation.” Texas courts refers to the parent or guardian of a child as a “conservator,” and the amount of time a parent spends with the child is called “access.”

Custody “Conservatorship”

Texas law is based on the premise that the best interests of the child shall always be the primary consideration of the court. Texas Family Code section 153.134, states that the purpose is to:

  • assure that children will have frequent and continuing contact with parents who can act in their best interest;
  • provide a safe, stable, and nonviolent environment for the child; and
  • encourage parents to share in the rights and duties of raising their child.

The law presumes that parents will be named joint conservators of their children, but when parents use children as pawns and do not put their interests first, a judge can refuse to appoint the parents as joint conservators and may give sole custody to one parent who will have exclusive managing and possessory conservatorship over the child.

Visitation “Access”

Texas courts often consider many of the same factors when deciding the level of time spent or access each parent has to the child. 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.

The rights each parent has in relation to the time spent with a child are determined by “possession orders.” Under a Standard Possession Order, parents 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.

In situations where children are used as pawns, the courts may decide how each parent has access. Possible options include:

  • Visitation must be under continuous supervision.
  • Child exchange must occur in a protective setting.
  • Parent must abstain from the consumption of alcohol or a controlled substance within 12 hours prior to access to the child.
  • Parent must attend and complete a battering intervention and prevention program.

Other Issues for Using Kids as Pawns in a Divorce

Location of Residence

Parents may disagree and use children as pawns in situations where one parent wants to move to a different geographical area, often to be near grandparents or for employment. Texas laws allow the parent with which the child primarily resides the exclusive right to determine the primary residence, but this is generally restricted so that the child can have close and continuous contact with both parents.

Money Disputes

Parents who cannot settle their money issues may wind up using kids as pawns. However, the courts have clear guidelines for establishing spousal or child support as follows:

  • Spousal maintenance is provided only in limited circumstances — if a spouse has been out of the work force, lacks education, becomes disabled during marriage, must care for a disabled child, or has experienced family violence.
  • Child support duty is generally until the child is 18 or graduates from high school. The guideline amount is computed as a percentage of the paying parent’s monthly net resources based on the number of children for which support is obligated.

Visitation of Relatives

When relatives, most often grandparents, aunts and uncles, may wish to have time with a child, problems arise when the parents are hostile to each other or to the relative. In Texas, parents are not legally obligated to allow visitation to family members. If both parents agree, they can make rules regarding which family members get to visit the child unless there is a court order against it.

Don’t Let Your Kids be Used as Pawns – Contact the Evans & Herlihy Law Firm to Help

At Evans & Herlihy, we know the importance of resolving your divorce issues and keeping your kids from being used as pawns.

We will make every effort to settle your case without going to court, but we are fully prepared to go to trial and aggressively fight for you and your children if necessary. Delaying can only make your situation worse and damage your children, so call our family lawyers at (512) 732-2727 today for your free consultation to start getting the help and advice you need.