Parents want the best for their children. When they cannot decide on custody matters, though, the fighting can get unpleasant. If mediation and negotiation fail, your case is most likely heading to court. A judge who does not know you or your family will make the final decision on matters like child custody and child support. Skilled legal counsel from a Dallas child custody attorney can help you fight for your parental rights both in and out of court. The passionate legal team at the Law Office of Chris Schmiedeke is here for you.
A court order for child custody must include a parenting plan that addresses decision-making and a visitation schedule, among other matters. Texas law provides three ways to resolve child custody disputes:
Judges in Texas courts must look at multiple factors when deciding child custody issues. Any decision that they make must be in the “best interest of the child.” This rather vague standard is the most important concern under Texas family law. Factors that a judge will consider include the following:
Does the child have a closer relationship with one parent? How involved is each parent in the child’s life on a daily basis? Would regular contact with both parents be in the child’s best interest, or could it potentially be harmful?
History of Abuse
Does either parent have a history of documented or alleged domestic abuse? This could involve abuse directed at the other parent, the child, or someone else in the household. The court may also consider abuse by other family members and people involved in the child’s life.
What is each of the parent’s income? How much do they contribute to supporting the child’s wellbeing? Does one parent work while the other parent primarily cares for the child?
Health of Parents
Does either parent have any health conditions that could affect their ability to care for the child?
Safety of Child
Do the living situations of either parent present any other potential risks to the child’s wellbeing? For example, does either parent have a history of alcohol or drug abuse, or other unsafe behaviors?
Texas commonly refers to “child custody” as “conservatorship.” Three different types of conservatorships are possible under Texas law.
Joint Managing Conservator
Joint managing conservatorship is the most common type of conservatorship ordered by courts. It allows both parents to maintain active involvement in their child’s life. It is not quite the same as “joint custody,” as courts typically designate one parent as the “Primary Joint Managing Conservator,” who has the right to designate where the child lives. The parents share the rest of the custody rights.
Sole Managing Conservator
In a sole managing conservatorship, one parent has both legal and physical custody of the child. Sole physical custody typically means that this parent has the right to determine where the child will live. Sole legal custody gives the parent to right to make major decisions for the child on the following matters:
Also known as a noncustodial parent, this parent has visitation rights with the child, but no authority to make major decisions affecting the matters described above. State law presumes that appointing both parents as managing conservators would be in a child’s best interest. Appointing a parent as a possessory conservator requires evidence that a managing conservatorship would not benefit the child.
Texas courts may modify a child custody order if the circumstances have changed in a significant way. A paternity test, if applicable, has the potential to change the outcome of child custody, although this is rare in cases involving established custody orders. While a motion to modify a conservatorship order is pending, a court may hold a hearing and issue temporary orders that apply until a new final order is in place.
Grounds for modifying an established conservatorship order include the following:
Child Is 12 or Older and Expressed Interest In a Parent
A court may take a child’s wishes into account if the child is at least 12 years old. The judge must conduct an interview with the child in the judge’s chambers to evaluate whether the child’s wishes would be in their best interest.
Parent’s or Child’s Circumstances Have Materially or Substantially Changed
If a conservatorship order has been in place for less than a year, a parent must prove to the court that the child’s current situation places them in danger. After a year, Texas law leaves it up to courts to determine what constitutes a “material” or “substantial” change. Possible examples might include:
Sole Managing Conservator Has Relinquished Care of the Child
If the parent who has the exclusive right to designate where the child lives has voluntarily relinquished the care and possession of the child for at least six months, either parent may request a modification of the conservatorship order. This does not apply when the parent has relinquished care of the child temporarily because of military deployment or duty.
Having a Dallas family law attorney on your side will be beneficial during a child custody case. The process of preparing to negotiate or litigate a custody dispute can be difficult and painful. An experienced attorney can help you gather evidence to support your claims and guide you through the process of preparing in case you need to go to court. They can help you during the mediation and negotiation processes. A knowledgeable Dallas child custody attorney can find ways, whenever possible, to resolve disputes before they grow into massive court battles.
The Law Office of Chris Schmiedeke represents people in child custody disputes in Dallas and the surrounding areas. We offer eBooks, eCourse packages, and an educational YouTube channel. Our cost-effective legal services have led to substantial positive reviews from past clients. Contact our law firm today at 214-643-8904 or via the online contact form today to schedule a consultation with a Dallas child custody lawyer.