Our Attorneys Help You Understand Child Custody & Visitation Options
Take heart in the fact that Texas law puts the needs of your child first. Every decision regarding child custody should be filtered through one question: What is in the best interest of the child? The problem, of course, is that each parent likely has a different perspective. At the Law Office of Kyle Whitaker, we will make certain your voice is heard and your relationship with your child is protected.
Understanding Texas Child Custody Laws
As you move into the legal process, it is important to acquaint yourself with the correct terminology and legal issues. For example, Texas law does not use the term “child custody.” The correct term is conservatorship. Parents are conservators, not custodians.
In most cases, it is agreed that the best outcome for the child is to maintain a relationship with each parent, such as some form of joint managing conservatorship. Under this arrangement, both parents will spend time raising the child and participate in making the decisions important to the child’s upbringing. The amount of time each parent spends with the child may not be equal, depending on various facts and circumstances. The goal is to reach an outcome that seems like a continuation of current healthy parent-child relationships.
Our family law attorneys are prepared to handle the most challenging cases, even where there are allegations of parental alienation (this is when one parent is attempting to turn the child against the other parent), or when one parent wants to relocate with the child.
We handle child custody cases in conjunction with divorce. We also represent unmarried parents in paternity actions and related child custody issues.
Modification And Enforcement
Conservatorship is not permanent. The law recognizes that circumstances change. If you have encountered a change in work schedule or some other issue that requires an update to conservatorship arrangements, we can help. Our lawyers can also represent you if you need to enforce child custody arrangements or if you are the target of an enforcement action.
Child Custody FAQs
Each family can decide on a timesharing schedule that works for them. If you and your ex-spouse live near each other, it may be possible for each parent to spend approximately half of the days of the year with each parent. Most families accomplish this by rotating parenting time by partial weeks, such as with the 2-2-3-2-2-3 cycle (two days with Mom, two with Dad, three with Mom, two with Dad, two with Mon, three with Dad, and then the cycle repeats). This arrangement works best for young children or during summer vacation. Moving from one parent’s house to another in the middle of a week is disruptive for school children. Therefore, most families have children spend all school nights with the same parent.
Parenting plans are not about money, but they do address several other aspects of parenting besides where the children will be on which days of the year. For example, parenting plans indicate which parent has the final say about children’s education, extracurricular activities, and non-emergency medical treatment. You might indicate that you and your ex must make these decisions jointly; if you choose this option, then in the event of a disagreement, you might have to go back to court. The parenting plan also addresses transportation responsibilities, such as, “Dad must pick up the children from school on Friday afternoon. Mom must pick them up from Dad’s house at 7:00 on Sunday evening.”
In almost every circumstance, your children’s right to have a relationship with both parents outweighs any parenting mistakes you might make. Most of the things you do that make your ex think you are an unfit parent are perfectly harmless in the eyes of the court. The court does, however, have the right to punish you by reducing your parenting time if you do not pay child support, do not let your ex-spouse exercise his parenting time, or try to harm your children’s relationship with your ex-spouse. The court can order you to have supervised parenting time only if your ex can prove that the children are unsafe when they are alone with you. These allegations are only credible if you leave your children unsupervised for an extended period of time, expose them to violence or illegal drugs, or fail to prevent accidental injuries that are easily and obviously preventable. The occasional curse word or junk food meal does not make you an unfit parent.
In most cases, the parents decide on a parenting plan during divorce mediation. The judge only sets the parenting plan when the parents cannot reach an agreement between themselves. Judges may consider more than a dozen factors in deciding which parent should be with the children for the majority of days. If the children are old enough to be in high school, the judge may meet with teens and ask them about their preferences for the parenting plan, but the teens’ preferences are only one of many factors for the judge to consider.
Want To Learn More About Child Conservatorship?
If you would like more information about child custody or conservatorship, call our Fort Worth or Southlake Texas law offices at 817-332-7703.