Determining custody of your child or shared children can be an incredibly nerve-racking and emotional experience. After all, you brought this human into the world, and now a court is telling you how often you can see it? Your frustration is completely valid. We have found that the more you do to prepare yourself for this process, the more streamlined it can be. Having an experienced Texas divorce attorney on your side to advocate for you and ensure that the interests of you and your children are prioritized can make all the difference in attempting to navigate child custody.
In this article, we will explore generally what is required in child custody hearings in Texas and what you can expect. The information provided here is intended to be general. However, if you would like personalized feedback based on the facts and circumstances of your particular case, you are encouraged to contact us at Covington Law Firm to schedule a consultation.
How is Custody Determined?
In Texas, custody is determined by the court. If you and your co-parent are able to reach an agreement on custody, you can submit this agreement to the court for review and approval. The court will review your proposed agreement based on the best interest of the child standard. This standard aims to determine what arrangement would be in the child’s best interest based on a number of factors, including the physical and emotional needs of the child, the stability offered by each home as well as its geographic location, the parenting skills of each parent, and which parent has been the child’s primary caregiver in the past. If the judge determines the proposed plan to be in the child’s best interest, it will be approved. If not, the plan may be amended or rejected by the court.
What Happens if We Cannot Agree on a Parenting Plan?
If you and your co-parent are unable to independently come to a custody agreement on your own, you can work with a lawyer or lawyers to help you negotiate an agreement or attend mediation to try and arrive at a mutual resolution. In the event that you cannot arrive at a collaborative outcome, the court will make a determination as to custody. Each parent will submit a proposed custody agreement and defend their position, and the judge will make a decision based on the best interest of the child standard.
What is a Parenting Plan?
A parenting plan is a document that is required to be prepared as part of the child custody determination process. This plan is required and must be produced and adhered to. The plan includes the duties and rights of each parent, and includes things such as which parents have the right to make medical decisions for their child, and which parent has the duty of providing the child’s primary residence. An attorney can aid in the preparation of this document.
How Can I Increase My Chances of Getting Custody?
The best way to increase your chances of getting custody, or a greater share of custody, is to be as involved in your child’s life as possible. If you can demonstrate that you frequently spend time with your child, provide care for your child, and are an integral part of their growth and development, the court will want to ensure that your role in your child’s life is protected. Being able to provide a safe and stable home environment for your child, near family and their school and extracurricular activities, is also important.
Can a Parent Withhold Visitation if Child Support is Not Paid?
Although it may seem unfair, it is against the law in Texas to deny your co-parent court-ordered visitation even if they have failed to make child support payments.
Can My Child Decide Who They Want to Live With?
It would put a great deal of pressure on a child to have to choose which parent they want to live with; an amount that could be traumatizing. In order to protect against this, the Texas legislature has made sure that a child’s preference as to the parent with whom they want to live can never be the sole determining factor as to custody. However, if the child is at least 12 years of age a motion can be made for the court to consider their wishes, in addition to all other relevant factors, when determining custody.
Can the Custody Agreement be Modified?
Custody agreements may seem like they are written in stone, but they can be changed. It is unlikely that an agreement will remain effective forever. Changes and modifications may be needed over time to ensure that the agreement still serves the child’s best interests. If you require a modification to your current custody agreement or parenting plan, a family law attorney can help you petition the court.
What Happens if My Ex Tries to Move Our Shared Children Out of State?
Most jurisdictions in Texas have a standing order that keeps parents from taking their children out of state while divorce proceedings are pending. However, if you have become aware that your co-parent is trying to take your children out of state, an attorney can help you get a temporary restraining order to keep them from doing so.
Can the Court Order Supervised Visitation?
Yes, in certain circumstances, such as where you can demonstrate that visitation with your children’s other parent would put them at risk of physical or emotional harm, the court can mandate supervised visitation.
How Can I Prepare for a Custody Trial?
One way to prepare for a custody trial is to brush up on trivia about your child. It is important to know their birth date, extracurricular activities, the name of their doctor and teachers, their schedule, and anything else that your co-parent might know. You can also get any relevant evidence together and speak to an attorney to get a plan in place.
Talk to an Experienced Texas Child Custody Lawyer
If you are considering divorce or want to make sure that your rights to your children are protected through a custody hearing, you do not have to navigate the process alone, and you do not have to let fear hold you back from moving forward in life. Vonda Covington, experienced Divorce and Child Custody Attorney, is ready to help. Contact the Covington Law Firm today to schedule your free consultation.