Child custody is one of the most critical issues that need to be resolved in the wake of a divorce or separation. Determining who gets to keep the kids is often a difficult and emotionally-charged affair. While some parents are able to reach an amicable parenting agreement, some require the intervention of the court. In Texas, the courts don’t favor either gender, rather they focus on what is best for the child.
If you are dealing with child custody issues, it is crucial that you involve an experienced child custody lawyer in Porter. At Bolton Law, we have a team of highly skilled child custody attorneys who are prepared to help you secure the best outcome for you and your child. We will adequately represent your interests while ensuring that your parenting rights are protected.
Are There Different Types of Child Custody Agreements in Texas?
In the state of Texas, child custody is broken down into two key elements; physical custody and legal custody. The courts employ these two elements in different ways based on what is best for the child. It is important to note that custody in Texas is referred to as conservatorship.
Legal custody refers to the parental right to make plans and decisions regarding important matters in the child’s life including education, religion, non-emergency medical care, and discipline. In most cases, the courts will award both parents legal custody.
This accords the parent the right to decide on the child’s primary residence and to make decisions regarding the child’s everyday needs. The parent who is awarded primary custody will have the children living primarily with them while the other will have visitation rights. In some cases, the courts may award both parents physical custody.
Based on these two elements, here are the different forms of custody that can be ordered by a Texas court:
In sole custody, only one parent is awarded both physical and legal custody. In short, they have full custody of the child. Here, the other parent doesn’t have a legal right to make important decisions on behalf of the child. However, they will often have visitation rights and an obligation to pay child support.
While rarely considered, sole custody may be ordered in cases where the other parent is deemed to be unfit or poses a danger to the child, is located far away, when it is impractical for both parents to make decisions on behalf of the child, and where sole custody is particularly beneficial to the child.
Joint custody usually comes in three different forms; joint legal custody, shared physical custody, and a combination.
- In joint legal custody, both parents have the right to make important decisions regarding the child’s welfare and upbringing. However, the child only has one primary residence.
- In shared physical custody, the child has two residences and should spend at least 35% of their time with the other parent.
- The parents also have the option to arrange for some special type of joint custody. This often includes a combination of both shared physical custody and joint legal custody. Regardless, the arrangement should be within the limits of child custody laws.
Courts across the country favor joint child custody as it is often considered more beneficial to the child when both parents are actively involved in the child’s life.
Temporary Child Custody
A decision will need to be made in regards to who the child stays with before and during the child custody proceedings. To formalize this type of custody, you have to file for temporary custody. Again, the decision on who gets temporary custody of the child will depend on the child’s best interests.
While temporary child custody isn’t a conclusive decision on who will be awarded child custody, it may have a bearing on the final decision, since courts often seek to minimize disruptions to the child’s life. And this is especially so if it proves to work well.
This type of custody typically applies in cases where there are two children involved. Here, each parent gets full physical custody of one child. The courts often consider the age and preference of each child when making a determination.
How Does the Family Court Determine Child Custody?
It should go without saying that during a divorce, the people who suffer the most are the children. This is perhaps one of the key reasons why family courts take child dispute cases very seriously.
When determining child custody, the courts will consider a number of factors, but the key priority will be the child’s best interests. Here are some of the factors the courts will use to determine custody:
- The relationship the child has with both parents
- The child’s preference, if they are mature enough
- History of domestic abuse, mental illness, drug abuse, or any behavior that poses harm to the child
- The financial situation of each parent
- How the decision will impact the child’s school and social life
- Distance between each parent’s home
- The ability of each parent to provide a safe and stable environment for the child
Can We Create a Child Custody Plan Without the Court Involvement in Texas?
Yes. In fact, parents going through a divorce are strongly advised to reach a child custody plan out of court. Not only does this help to eliminate expensive litigation costs, but it is understood that parents are in a better position to make decisions that are beneficial to the child and family.
Custody and visitation issues can be resolved out of court through a mutual agreement between the parents or through alternative dispute resolution (ADR).
Parents who are still on good terms may resolve custody issues by drafting an agreement themselves. They will need to decide on who gets physical custody and who gets partial custody and visitation rights. They should also decide on who will have the children on their birthdays, holidays, and special occasions.
Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR)
If you can’t agree on certain issues with your ex but still want to resolve the matter out of court, you can consider the alternative dispute resolution (ADR) option. This is where a neutral third party (an attorney or mediator) helps the parents reach an amicable agreement.
Unlike in a court trial, the mediator’s decision is not legally binding. They enhance the communication between two parties, making them more likely to work well together for the benefit of the child after the divorce process.
Regardless of the method used to reach an agreement, it should be submitted to the court to be formalized and become legally binding. The court will review it to ensure that the contents of the agreement are in the child’s best interests. Once the parenting plan is approved by the court, it becomes a court order, meaning that all parties should abide by the terms and conditions of the plan.
If one party wants to make any changes to the plan, they will need to seek the consent of the other party. And if the other parent opposes the change, they will need to file for a modification with the court. Either way, any changes will need the approval of the court.
Any parent who violates the terms of the agreement will be subject to severe legal consequences such as jail time as this will be tantamount to violating a court order.
What if the Parents Cannot Agree on Any Aspect of Child Custody in Texas?
In the event that the parents cannot reach an amicable agreement in regards to custody or visitation, it will be up to the courts to decide on the best child custody plan. As noted, the judge will heavily consider the child’s best interests before making any decision. In most cases, the court will go for joint child custody.
The courts often favor the natural parents of the child when it comes to determining custody, but in some special circumstances, custody may be awarded to the grandparents.
Our attorneys at Bolton Law have excellent negotiation skills, which are instrumental in reaching an amicable custody agreement. In addition, we have long-standing experience handling child custody cases in court and are prepared to fight for your rights and interests before a judge.
Get in Touch With an Experienced Child Custody Lawyer in Porter
As a parent, you want what is best for your child. And when going through a divorce or separation, this may mean putting them under your custody, having adequate access to them, and being able to make important decisions on their behalf. Given that child custody is a complex legal issue, it is important that you get the best child custody lawyer in Porter, Texas to help protect your parental rights and best interests.
At Bolton Law, we specialize in child custody cases. While our team is focused on resolving child dispute issues out of court, we have the expertise and experience to fight your case in court and secure an outcome that is favorable to you and your child. Call our offices today at 281-351-7897 to schedule an initial consultation.