Going through a divorce is never an easy process, but it's often a necessary one. While it's a traumatic experience for the couple, divorce can be equally or more upsetting to children. Studies show that children of divorced parents are more likely to struggle emotionally and academically than their peers raised in a two-parent household. The same research also shows that kids do better when their parents work together to minimize conflict and cooperate during a divorce. This is why it's essential to understand the particulars of child custody and parenting time.
As a family law attorney, I can help you come to a child custody agreement or represent you in court that serves your entire family's best interests. Call the Law Office of Marco Sanchez, P.C. in New Braunfels, Texas, today to set up an appointment.
You have two main options when establishing a child custody arrangement:
You and your ex-spouse can decide on an arrangement together that will then be presented to a judge for approval. This is the easiest method for everyone involved with minimal expenses. It is always best to hire an experienced attorney prior to memorializing your agreement with your ex-spouse so that you ensure that the correct language is presented to the judge.
If you and your co-parent are unable to come to an agreement on your own, you can take your case to trial and a judge will decide upon an agreement that's best for your family. In this scenario, usually one or both parents find it helpful to hire a family law attorney to represent their interests.
The first decision to make is whether you'll have joint custody or sole custody of your child. In Texas, this is called "conservatorship" and reflects the decision-making power of a parent for things like medical decisions, education, or religion.
Texas courts prefer a joint custody arrangement (called a "joint managing conservatorship") when at all possible, though it will look at various factors if one parent feels they should have sole custody. Usually, one parent is named the custodial parent who decides where the child primarily lives and works out a visitation schedule with the non-custodial parent.
It's important to note that a decision about conservatorship is not the same as a decision about physical custody. Called "possession and access" in Texas, physical custody refers to when and where the child will reside and how often they'll see each parent. This is decided separately from conservatorship. For example, one parent could be granted sole conservatorship, yet the child would still spend substantial time with each parent physically.
A judge will always attempt to decide custody based on the best interests of the child, and in Texas, the default is for joint custody. To reach a sole custody determination, it must be shown that one parent is unfit to make decisions about their child. This could be due to patterns of violence against the child or the other parent, absence of one parent, or substance abuse by one parent.
If both parents agree to a parenting time arrangement, the judge will almost always approve it. However, when parents bring their case to court, a judge will consider many factors when deciding parenting time. This could be the physical location of each parent, the emotional and physical health of the child, the history of cooperation of each parent, the ability of each parent to meet the needs of their child, and after a child is 12 years old, a judge can consider their opinion as well.
To modify an existing custody agreement, both parents must consent to the changes, and the revised agreement will be sent to a judge for approval. If one parent wants a modification against the other's wishes, they generally need to show there's been a material change of circumstances. This could be the loss of a job, a move to another state, or if one parent isn't holding up their side of the agreement.
No matter where you are in your divorce or your negotiations on child custody, an experienced attorney can help you make these tough decisions. I help families across the state of Texas in Dallas, New Braunfels, and Hays, Comal, Collin, and Bexar counties. Call the Law Office of Marco Sanchez, P.C. today for compassionate and practical legal guidance.