Texas family law states that a court may modify a child custody order if the change is in the best interest of the child and one of the following applies:
1. The circumstances of the child or parent have materially or substantially changed since the date of the original child custody order or order to be modified.
2. The child is at least 12 years of age and will tell the court in private chambers with the judge that he/she would like a change.
3. The custodial parent has voluntarily given the child’s care and custody to another person for at least 6 months.
Material or Substantial Change
What could be acceptable as a change for the Texas family courts? Some examples could be a parent’s remarriage, a medical condition the affects a parent’s ability take care of the child, a parent’s criminal acts or convictions, a parent’s change in residence that makes visitation a hardship for the other parent, family violence, drug or alcohol related issues, absence of supervision, and other material changes concerning adequate care and supervision of the child.
Child Wants Change
The child must be at least 12years of age and maybe interviewed in the judge’s chambers. The court will consider the child’s desire but only make a change if it is in the child’s best interest.
This happens when the custodial parent has voluntarily given up custody of the child to another person for at least six months. This does not apply to a period of military deployment or duty.
After finding one of the three prerequisites, the court must still consider whether the change will be in the child’s best interest. The court will consider factors affecting the child’s physical, emotional, mental, education, social, moral or disciplinary welfare and development. The factors considered for this evaluation are:
1. Child’s emotional and physical needs.
2. Parenting ability of the conservators or potential conservators
3. Plans and outside resources available to persons seeking the modification
4. Value to the child of having a relationship with both parents
5. Visitation schedule that requires excessive traveling or prevents the child from engaging in school or social activities
6. Stability of the person’s home seeking the modification
7. The child’s desires
8. Child’s need for stability and need to limit additional litigation in child custody cases.
Modification within one year of prior court order
A parent who files a motion to modify a child custody order within one year after a prior order was entered must also submit an affidavit to the court. The affidavit must contain, along with supporting facts, at least one of the following allegations:
1. The child’s present environment may be endanger the child’s physical health or significantly impair the child’s emotional development.
2. The person who has the exclusive right to designate the child’s primacy residence is the person seeking or consenting to the modification and the modification is in the child’s best interest.
3. The person who has the exclusive right to designate the child’s primary residence has voluntarily relinquished the primacy care and possession of the child for at least six months and the modification is in the child’
In 2014, The United States at 53%, had the 10th highest divorce rate in the world! According to the Forest Institute of Professional Psychology: 50% of first marriages, 67% of second marriages and 74% of third marriages end in Divorce in the United States.
Marriages do not break up overnight. There is not one incident or one party that ends a marriage. Your emotional break up usually extends over several years with the marriage parties continually at different stages in the emotional process.
Just remember,” no marriage is totally bad nor totally good!” Do not go fault finding! Both partners stay in a marriage for a longer period of time because there are good things about it. Now the couple is divorcing because the “bad” things make the marriage not work anymore.
A new divorce survey by Slater and Gordon Law Firm (survey of 1000 divorced people) recently came out with some very interesting results:
- The average person will spend about 2 years thinking about a divorce before they file.
- During this time the average person spends 18 months really trying to fix their marriage and working to save it.
- 76% try to fix their marriage problems before deciding on a divorce
- 53% discuss divorce with someone besides their spouse before filing
- 36% spoke with an attorney before deciding on a divorce
What are the emotional stages a couple will experience leading up to a divorce?
1. Disillusionment of one / two marriage partners ( not verbalized to other partner)
- Continued, ongoing feelings of discontent, pent up resentments and breach of trust
- Emotional feelings of anxiety, anger, denial, depression ,fear, grief, guilt ,and love
- Real problem but unacknowledged
- Developing greater distance, lack of mutuality, and increase in arguments
- Consideration of pros and cons of possible divorce and/or separation
2. Verbalized Dissatisfaction ( no legal action yet)
- Feelings of anguish, doubt, emotional, grief, guilt, relief, and tension after expression of discontent is now in the open!
- Marriage counseling and giving “one last try” for the marriage
3. Decision to Divorce ( no legal action yet)
- Feelings of anger, anxiety of the future, guilt, resentment, and sadness
- Other partner now in emotional stage one and both parties feeling victimized by each other.
- Realizes this decision is usually not reversible
Divorce Decision Action (the legal process begins)
- Feelings of anger, blame, shame, fear, and guilt
- Emotional and physical separation
- Going public with decision to family and friends
- Dealing with the “Children Problem”. No way around this one.
- Hiring an attorney and start the divorce process
4. Acceptance of Divorce / Single Life ( during the legal process or after)
- Many life adjustments: emotional, mental, and physical
- Realization that the marriage was not fulfilling or happy
- Dealing with your children and helping them to understand they are loved and did not cause the end of the marriage
- Work on developing the “new single you”, new identity and a plan for the future!
This emotional roller-coaster may take years to complete, but keep focused and you will get through it. Surround yourself with competent legal professionals who will help you through this life changing event.
Just remember this: the divorce emotional stages are a normal occurrence when going through a divorce. Outside of a death, divorce is one of the most life changing events in an individual’s life. This list is very basic and you will probably add many other emotions on to the list You are not alone. It is a grieving process and you will recover.
Summer Visitation and Divorce? Your Sharing Attitude Will Be the Happy Force for your Children and Family!
We are approaching the end of the school year and the beginning of the long Summer Visitation! You have probably received the letter/ email from your EX requesting the setup for the Summer Visitation with the children.
Usually this is not a happy time for the primary care giving parent, but from personal experience, you need a break and letting the children spend some extended time with the other parent will give them a chance to share time and experiences with this parent and make them happy. Remember your children love you and nothing will change that fact!
From practicing family law for a long time now, I believe there are elements in divorce that will never change:
- You cannot make someone love you and stay with you if they choose not to.
- The only person that you can be completely responsible for in behavior is YOURSELF!
- If you choose to have a bad attitude and try to hurt your EX by alienating your children, then not only are you not winning the divorce game, but you are causing serious damage to your Children. Even if you win, you are a loser. The Kids didn’t ask for this Divorce, they are often stuck because Mom and Dad couldn’t be happy together!
After considering these ideas and deciding no, your children were not the case of the divorce, try giving some effort to help make your children happy during Summer Visitation with their other parent and not worry about you.
Here are my “New Divorce No No Rules” that will make the Summer Visitation happier for the entire family including your EX:
- No talking bad about the other spouse! This is your battle, not the kids! The kids are still related to their other parent and love that parent.
- Make this Summer Visitation an adventure for the kids. Mommy and Daddy are not together anymore, but the children should feel that they are going to spend this special time with their other parent without you acting mad or hurt. Never let the kids know that you are unhappy about the Summer separation and may not love them if they are happy! Let the kids look forward to a wonderful summer adventure with their dad or mom and don’t look back!
- Get with your ex-spouse and determine the Summer visitation schedule. Share this schedule with the kids so they will know what is going on and what time will be shared with both parents. Meanness will not be tolerated, be nice!
- Talk with the children on their ideas for the Summer Visitation. Maybe share these ideas with your EX. Remember: this is not about your feelings, it is about the love and needs of your family.
“The more you give in to the love of your family, the better you will feel in your heart.”
You, my friend, will eventually get over this hurt of the Summer separation with the kids and maybe get a little rest yourself. Before you know it, the kids will be back, school will start and your family’s live will go on, but it is always the decisions you make to help your children cope with this family split that will determine your true character as a parent and a person.
Hoping you and your family will have a wonderful Summer and this blog has help to put a smile on your face! —-Mark A. Nacol
Are you now going through or commencing a “High Conflict” Divorce with children where one Alienating Parent is encouraging or programming the child to reject the other parent without legitimate cause or justification. An alienating parent makes a child choose sides to bolster the alienators own parental identity and to undermine the target parent through denigration and interference with the child’s other parent relationship.
Parental Alienation is more common than thought in divorce situations and many alienation situations continue throughout the entire relationship with the target parent and the affected child.
A report from Fidler and Bala (2010) reported increased incidences and judicial findings in parental alienation and estimated signs of parental alienation in 11-15% of divorces with children. Psychiatrist, Dr. William Bernet, Professor at Vanderbilt University and advocate of parental alienation (Sept. 2013) “Almost every mental health professional who works with children of divorced parents acknowledges the PA (parental alienation) affects thousands of families and causes enormous pain and hardship”
What are the warning signs of “Parental Alienation Syndrome”? Beware when a child starts displaying accelerated signs of hatred and anger rejecting any relationship with the target parent. This is especially transparent when a normal relationship existed before the deviant behavior manifests.
Are you having these types of problems with your children? What are the basic symptoms of Parental Alienation(PA)? There are many versions but in our law practice, these are the most visible:
- Under the idea of just being honest, the alienating parent tells the child “the entire family situation” through their opinionated eyes causing the child to think less of the target parent. Placing singular blame for who caused the breakup of the family?
- Alienating Parent refuses to allow the target parent access to school records/activities, medical/doctor records/appointments, extracurricular activities, or anything that would be a shared part of the child/parent life together.
- An Alienating Parent makes demands on the target parent that are contrary to court orders. Allows the child to make choices about parental visits with the target parent contra to existing court orders causing the child to resent the target parent when the changes request cannot or should not happen.
- Alienated parent may schedule the child in too many activities to assure no time is left for the target parent to visit with the child. Both parents need to be flexible with visitation to respond to the child’s need to have a relationship with both parents.
- A parent listens in on the child’s conversation with the target parent or does not allow the child to talk with the target parent at the designed call time.
- Refuses to allow children to takes their possessions to the target parent residence.
- Alienated parent blames the target parent for financial problems, having a boy/girlfriend, or causing changes in the family lifestyle. Forcing adult issues on a minor to gain advantage.
- When the child shows constant anger towards the target parent that accelerates to the point where the child avoids being with the target parent. No justified or demonstrative reason is given or exists for the anger and the child will not discuss the issue.
- The alienating parent will use the child to spy and gather information against the target parent. This can cause the child to demean and fear the target parent while scaring the child’s self-image.
- Alienating parent asks the child about the other parent’s personal life causing the child extreme stress/tension. A child not alienated wants to loyal to both parents.
- Alienating parents have secret codes, signals, and words that reinforce very destructive on-going alienation.
In today’s world Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS) is now taken very serious in family law courts. Please review the symptoms of parental alienation and see if there are common elements in your relationship with your child to determine if parental alienation may be a factor.
If so, take action to help alleviate this this situation with your child. Contact a medical professional who can help address this form of brainwashing. The alienating parent always feels like they are helping the child, but in reality, by pushing the child into their way of thinking about the target parent, they are pushing the child into a life of low self- esteem, depression, lack of trust, and self- hate. Many times the child will turn on the alienating parent when the real family picture comes out or as they grow and mature.
Nothing is ever gained by demeaning actions by one family member on all other members of the family unit. Many times it may also be necessary to contact a legal profession who is knowledgeable in Parental Alienation situations to legally intercede and help correct family issues before the child and parent regress to a non- existent relationship with each other.
Getting Even by using a child is never fair play. The child has two parents and should be able to have a loving relationship with both.
This question causes many divorced or single parents much stress concerning meaningful contact with their children. “What do I need to do to legally secure my specific summer visitation periods with my kids?”. Here is a general breakdown of Texas law on summer visitation:
Family code: 153.312: Notification of Summer Visitation: Parents who reside 100 miles or less apart.
A possessory conservator gives the managing conservator written notice by April 1 of each year specifying an extended period or periods of summer possession, the possessory conservator shall have possession of the child for 30 days beginning not earlier than the day after the child’s school is dismissed for the summer vacation and ending not later than seven days before school resumes at the end of the summer vacation, to be exercised in not more than two separate periods of at least seven consecutive days each, with each period of possession beginning and ending at 6 p.m. on each applicable day; or does not give the managing conservator written notice by April 1 of each year specifying an extended period or periods of summer possession, the possessory conservator shall have possession of the child for 30 consecutive days beginning at 6 p.m. on July 1 and ending at 6 p.m. on July 31;
If the managing conservator gives the possessory conservator written notice by April 15 of each year, the managing conservator shall have possession of the child on any one weekend beginning Friday at 6 p.m. and ending at 6 p.m. on the following Sunday during one period of possession by the possessory conservator under Subdivision (2), provided that the managing conservator picks up the child from the possessory conservator and returns the child to that same place;
If the managing conservator gives the possessory conservator written notice by April 15 of each year or gives the possessory conservator 14 days’ written notice on or after April 16 of each year, the managing conservator may designate one weekend beginning not earlier than the day after the child’s school is dismissed for the summer vacation and ending not later than seven days before school resumes at the end of the summer vacation, during which an otherwise scheduled weekend period of possession by the possessory conservator will not take place, provided that the weekend designated does not interfere with the possessory conservator’s period or periods of extended summer possession or with Father’s Day if the possessory conservator is the father of the child.
Divorce, paternity or other orders setting out access/possession rights should specifically set out this information. Such orders are usually custom and specific on times and dates for summer and other holiday visitations.
In today’s world, a statutory preset structured visitation schedule does not always work in a blended family environment. Many fathers are now either sole managing conservator or co-managing conservators with the mother. The current standard visitation schedule is used more as a basic presumed schedule to which extended time may be added for cause good for more equal shared time with the children.
With an enlightened public awareness and presumption under law that children need quality time with both parents, many parents are looking for modifications to child visitation orders that agrees with their lifestyles to share their children equally and fairly.