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’
A regrettable truth in family law often finds one parent unilaterally removing a child from the other parent while dissolving a marriage without any grounds or evidence of wrongdoing. Not surprisingly, disturbing numbers of children are routinely separated from loving, responsible parents for reasons that have nothing to do with their wishes, safety, health, or welfare and many times have to do with a lack of proper legal counsel.
In 50% of the marriages that end in divorce, 80% of these are over the objection of one spouse (close to 100% when children are involved). I am sure you have heard about “custody battles,” but you probably do not know that many start out with one parent taking a child from the other and refusing visitation until a court orders possession sometimes months down the line. You have heard about the witch hunt for “deadbeat dads,” but did you know that many of these fathers are well educated men who have lost their jobs due to a downtrodden economy and still love their children and want to play a leading role in their lives and upbringing. You have heard the hysteria over “child abuse,” but did you know that many accusations against fathers are shown to be false and used by one parent as a weapon to alienate the children from the other parent.
David Popenoe in his book “Life Without Father” tells us that negative consequences of fatherlessness are all around us. Evidence indicating damage to children growing up in fatherless homes has accumulated in near tidal-wave proportions. Fatherless children experience significantly more physical, emotional, and behavioral problems than do children growing up in intact families.
Children from fatherless homes are:
- 5 times more likely to commit suicide
- 32 times more likely to run away
- 20 times more likely to have behavioral disorders
- 14 times more likely to commit rape
- 9 times more likely to drop out of high school
- 10 times more likely to abuse chemical substances
- 9 times more likely to end up in a state-operated institution
- 20 times more likely to end up in prison.
(Information from Mark Hall, Father’s Manifesto).
In “My Rewar, My Punishment…My Son, Sons of Divorce,” Steven Manchester describes the situation many dads are dealing with when exercising visitation:
“I’d take my son for our court-ordered visits, only to drop him off two hours later, so another man could bounce him off his lap. Ironically, each new boyfriend was given all the time he wanted with my son. At first, it killed me, but I decided, “Whatever’s best for my boy. His happiness must come first!” Though it stung terribly, that attitude sustained me all the way to Christmas.
I waited in my old driveway for 4 excruciating hours, while three inches of snow muffled the screams from the cab of my truck. When they finally pulled in, my ex-wife snickered, “I must have lost track of time?” and handed over my son. I was livid! My boy was dead tired and half-asleep. And the EX…well…she just grinned, confident that there was nothing I could do about it. It took everything I had left to conceal my tears. I didn’t plan to give her anything for Christmas and was doing my best to stick to the plan.”
It is a sad scenario.
In divorce court, many fathers are left feeling that everything they have done, years of hard work, years of tender love, years of unstinting devotion to their family and children count as nothing.
In the 1960’s women fought hard to get laws passed to protect them against family violence, stalking and sexual harassment. The shame is that women of the 1990’s now use these same needed and appropriate laws wrongfully to their advantage and feel justified in punishing their spouse for wrongs they feel have been done to them by misusing the legal system; and in the process erase fathers from the lives of their children!
The facts are that many times the courtroom becomes a legal battleground. Inadequate counsel or absence of counsel can result in decisions that negatively affect children and the family for years to come.
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
We are now experiencing the worst Medical Pandemic in the USA since the Spanish Flu Pandemic of 1918. The COVID-19 Outbreak may be changing our American way of life for some time. Many families are in upheaval from fear of loved ones getting the virus, losing jobs, and not having food for their families. And in the middle of this situation you may be going through a family breakup, divorce, or just trying to Co-Parent your kids with your EX.
Now the “Never Want to Live Through It” Scenario may happen! Your kids are picked up by your Ex and they all disappear! Where are they? Are they in danger? When will I ever see my children again?
After you get over your shock, the main question you will ask is:
What can I do to get my children back?
On March 13, 2020, the Texas Supreme Court issued an emergency order that divorced / single parents should go by the originally published school and visitation schedule in their current decree. Since the last life-threatening pandemic in the United States was the Spanish Flu Pandemic of 1918, most divorce / single parent agreements do not include a pandemic clause! This emergency order was issued with the potential need of closing all courts, non-essential businesses and stay-at-home orders, Texas had to have an order in place to protect the children so that both parents could continue to care and protect them during the Pandemic.
If a custody agreement is in place with the court it is legally binding. If the runaway parent violates the agreement terms, he / she is in violation of the law and will likely face some serious legal consequences.
Many times, the runaway parent may take the children out of your area and may even cross state lines. This violation in your custody / visitation agreement could be considered parental kidnapping if the runaway parent moves over a state line without telling you the new residence of the child or without getting legal permission through the court to move or modify the custody order.
When the runaway parent and children are found, this is what could happen:
- Custody Arrangements may legally be changed by court orders. You will, in the most aggravated cases, most likely be awarded protective orders or custody with the runaway parent receiving supervised visitation or no contact with the child.
- The runaway parent may also face criminal charges and jail time.
At any time, this could happen to you! If your legal position concerning custody and visitation with your children is in limbo, go secure a family law attorney and the help you need to protect your kids.
*If you were never married or divorced from the runaway parent, or if you have no legal court orders concerning or establishing custody and visitation rights in place, this could be a serious impediment in securing help to find your children.
After you get over your shock, the main question you will ask Is:
What can I do to get my children back?
- Think Clearly! You must respond quickly. Time is of the essence.
- Contact the police immediately. You need to tell them that the runaway parent may have taken the children without permission. Make sure that you have your certified legal court orders that pertain to your parental arrangement agreement concerning your children. It is important to be able to show the police the specific orders and how important it is to find the runaway parent and kids!
- Contact a family law attorney immediately. Texas Courts are dealing with many of these runaway situations and an experienced family law attorney can help you legally deal with finding your child in a timely fashion. After the runaway has occurred, there will be court intervention to prevent any further occurrences. Custody and supervised visitation issues will also need to be addressed. Texas Judges and Courts will not take a runaway situation lightly by an errant parent!
Click to open the Texas Supreme Court Emergency Order (pdf)
Nacol Law Firm P.C.
8144 Walnut Hill Lane, Suite 1190
Dallas TX, 75231
Fathers Rights in Texas – WE NEVER GIVE UP!
Dealing with a worldwide medical pandemic and personally trying to stay alive and healthy is mentally changeling, but for parents who are divorced or have separate custody agreements and co- parent, it can be a disaster for the entire family. Hopefully, this Coronavirus Pandemic will be a short-lived life-threatening situation, but how the Co-parents cope with the problem could deeply impact their children’s emotional life.
In Texas, on March 13, 2020, the Texas Supreme Court issued an emergency order that divorced /single parents should go by the originally published school and visitation schedule in their current decree. Since the last life-threatening pandemic in the United State was the Spanish Flu Pandemic of 1918, most divorce/ single parent agreements do not include a pandemic clause!
Do not be one of those parents who decides that they “are the decision maker” and drives away with the kids for an extended vacation to Grandma’s in Florida without telling the other parent. Or deciding that the family circle of trust does not include their Other Parent and refuses visitation or joint decision making. These hasty, irrational decisions may seem reasonable in this time of national panic but consider the legal ramifications of violating an order. Since all courts, in Texas, are now closed except for emergency litigation matters only, when the courts are fully operational again and the medical danger has passed, how will a violation of your current decree look to the Judge? Judges always look to the needs of the child versus the unreasonable expectations of the parent. There will be serious ramifications against the violating parent.
Let’s look at some ideas on how co-parenting during this pandemic season can work the best for all family members and by joint agreement will save your both money that would normally go to legal fees.
Just remember that as co-parents your children are most important. Your child has been told that they can’t see their grandparents because of their age and if infected by the coronavirus, may die. No school, no playing of sports, or playing with friends since they may be infected with a deadly virus and become very ill. Decide to cooperate as responsible co-parents to navigate the child to the new changes in their daily routines without a lot of stress and anxiety on the child. By keeping the child calm and showing “a united family circle” the child will know that Mom and Dad are there for him/her.
Some areas of agreement should be that the child will have regular email, phone calls, FaceTime, Zoom visits, and texting with the other parent. The child needs to know that both parents are safe and interested in their wellbeing. Regular visitations times must be made available for the child to see each parent. Remember the child’s core circle of trust are his/her parents and siblings.
Another very serious matter is the decision of what will happen to the child if one parent becomes ill and cannot care for the child. The joint decision must be made by both parents and must ultimately be in the best interest for the child.
Custody disputes and circumstances that have totally changed in the last month. Just remember, co-parent cooperation is the best choice. There is no doubt that judges will be happy to hear that parents have worked together to meet their child’s best interest, by taking steps to protect the child’s health and safety.
This is a time for mutual give and take from both parents. No one is always right nor always wrong. In this upside crazy pandemic world, jointly trying to navigate your family to a better place will have its own rewards.
If, however, one parent unilaterally refuses to make fair agreements for the children or violates your custody orders, avoid retaliation and follow your decree orders faithfully. This Pandemic will pass, and most Judges will not treat lightly intense misconduct when the courts reopen.
Mark A. Nacol
The Nacol Law Firm P.C.