Thirty seven percent of families in the United States are blended families. Sixty percent of second marriages end in divorce. A biological parent has his hands full, but as most step-parents will tell you, their job is even more complicated.
Following a divorce, it is not uncommon for a new step-parent to become the target of unprovoked spite or anger. In many cases, the previous-spouse harbors unfounded fears that their child will look to a new step-parent as a mother or father replacement figure. This can engender resentment to what may already be an uncomfortable situation between parties. Regretfully, these issues often escalate very quickly. Such resentments place the children squarely in the middle of a bitter fight between the people they love the most and are not healthy for anyone involved. The pain of conflicting loyalties to each parent and a child’s feeling of being “caught in the middle” of such disputes exacts an enormous emotional toll on a child. When a parent is in a rage, it is not uncommon for a child to withdraw. The child’s behavior towards the non-primary parent may abruptly change. This change in behavior may have more to do with keeping the primary parent happy than it does with how they really feel about the non-primary parent or step-parent. It is essential that you make it clear to your child that you love them and will always be there for them, regardless of the emotional or less than rosy current circumstances.
It is crucial to a child’s self-esteem and emotional growth that parents avoid putting children in the middle of such disputes. This can be incredibly difficult, however, when a selfish or manipulative parent does not think twice about wrongfully placing his or her child in the middle of conflict. Children are very perceptive and as they grow older they will ultimately realize when a parent has lied to them and used them for their own emotional or financial gain. Though they may temporarily identify with the aggressors, in time they will deeply resent the parent who has manipulated them.
Regardless of the circumstances, it is critical that biological parents avoid arguments or conflicts in the presence of the children. Such conduct is conducive to parental alienation goals of the misguided previous spouse. If the child sees that you maintain a calm and collected demeanor, it gives them reason to pause and feel safe.
If a previous spouse is making statements to the child regarding issues that should only be discussed between adults, tell the child that such discussions are inappropriate and you will take them up with the other parent at another time.
It is ok to tell your child “I am sorry,” if they are upset, even if you are not the parent upsetting them. This validates that they are hurting and relieves any false guilt they may have over things that are being said and done when you are not present. It is sometimes helpful to use everyday situations to explain conflict to your child. As an example, when dealing with conflict explain that “brothers and sisters fight, but they still love each other. Families have to work through conflict in order to stay together. I would not leave you if you made a mistake, I would not want you to leave me.” Such statements reinforces that reasonable conflict is ok and assures the child that you will remain a constant force in their life regardless of the situation.
If you feel that the conflict has escalated to a point of becoming emotionally abusive and/or destructive to the child, consult a Family Law / divorce attorney. It may be in the best interest of the child that he or she be removed from the primary parent and placed with the non-primary parent so that he or she is allowed to love all parental figures, parents and step-parents alike, unconditionally.
Parents of a special needs child face many challenges while raising and nurturing their child. Many marriages falter and end in divorce due to the stressful demands required of parents with a special needs child. The stressors and emotional pressure that exists prior to the initiation of a divorce frequently accelerates during the divorce process. A special needs child is seriously affected by their parental decisions made during a divorce.
A divorce does not bring out the best in any couple. In the case of a special needs child, thoughtful and prudent care of the child should always be the main objective of both parents so the child knows that he/she is loved by both parents and is not at risk. A special needs child will experience serious emotional and behavioral problems during this time becoming more vulnerable and not knowing what is happening in life. The child is often afraid that he/she is losing Mom and Dad due to false and misplaced self-imposed guilt.
Many parents have already struggled with questions surrounding their child’s special needs such as correct diagnoses or the validly of treatments for their child’s conditions. During serious custody battles, such concerns become the focus of intense parental conflicts.
Some of the more serious concerns are:
A child’s reactions to overly permissive or excessively rigid parenting
Use and dosage of prescribed medicines for a diagnosed problem
Proper diagnosis being made by a competent professional
Whether a professional label and diagnosis will be noted in school records
Whether a child be placed in special education classes for leaning or emotional disabilities. Whether one parent is so occupied with the special need child that the parent has lost perspective on how to best manage the child
Often one parent accepts a child’s diagnosis given by the specialist and actively advocates for the child, while the other parent may remain in denial of the child’s obvious needs. Which parent is actually and consistently working in the child’s best interests?
Special efforts are needed when setting up possession schedules for your special needs child. Both parents must understand the nature of the child’s physical/emotional problems and the level that the child can function. When the child spends time in each parent’s home, both parents must reasonably work together and agree on a parenting approach that addresses the child’s needs.
When parents cannot agree upon the child’s actual needs and course of care, the court may appoint a specialist to conduct a complete evaluation of the child. From this evaluation the specialist will offer specific opinions to the parents and court regarding the nature of the child’s special needs and specifically address these needs.
In a divorce involving a special needs child many joint decisions are critical to and impact a child’s self-esteem. Other family issues and problems may need to temporally be put aside between the parents to assure a special needs child will fully receive the attention needed. We suggest that in the divorce decree a parenting plan be included setting out specific provisions for the care of the child.
Some suggested items to include in this Plan would be:
Can the child be cared for in the home or an outside facility and how would these costs be covered?
Medical, educational, and therapeutic interventions and decision making authority
Treatments not covered by insurance. Who is responsible as to the authority and cost?
Working with the child’s school to implement plans for the educational needs of the child.
Care decisions on parents’ ability to work outside the home with a special needs child
Handling of Lifetime care and support and the cost necessary for the special needs child
Divorce is frustrating, confusing, and personally resentful. Divorce is never a pleasant experience even in the most amicable terms. It is important to know what you are in for when a divorce is filed. An original petition will be filed by one of the spouses (the petitioner). Then, the Respondent spouse must be served with papers by a process server unless they will agree to waiver service.
After service of the original petition, the Petitioner may file for a Temporary Restraining Order (“TRO”) to protect the child and marital estate. Once a TRO is granted by the District Judge, a temporary order hearing will be set within 14 days. This temporary order hearing is extremely important and will determine the direction of the case.
Temporary Order hearings are usually condensed to 20 minutes a side depending on the complexities of the case. Within these 20 minutes, you will have to put on evidence for your entire case regarding custody of the children, management of the marital estate, and any other considerations such as receivership of a business.
After the temporary orders hearing, the case will dive into full throttle litigation. Discovery on both sides is usually conducted including interrogatories, admissions, and production of documentation. The documents that are usually requested consists of bank statements, retirement pensions, social media pages, text messages, and emails. Each case requires specific Discovery requests that are narrowly tailored to the facts presented. Discovery can last months and usually follow with motions to compel and sanctions. In highly contested cases the rigors of discovery and compiling documentation can be brutal.
During the Discovery phase, Depositions may be warranted. Depositions consists of your attorney questioning your spouse and any other witnesses that are relevant to the case for impeachment purposes. Depositions are necessary if the case will go to a jury, because impeachment of your spouse is a necessity to prove your truthfulness.
Mediation is often mandatory in Courts, but this is the general rule. Certain Courts in the Dallas, Fort Worth, and Collin county do not require mandatory mediation. Each Court has its own rules of procedure and requirements. If the Mediation fails to produce a settlement between you and your spouse, then the only thing left is a trial.
Depending on the complexities of the case and assets, a trial can last half a day or be a three-day trial. Most trials are before the District Judge. Certain facts may give rise to a jury trial, but a jury trial is more costly and can take up more time. After the trial is complete the parties will have to wait for a ruling. This can take days to months depending on the case and jurisdiction.
When the final ruling is given to all parties, the Judge will charge one party to create a final order that will be submitted to the Court. This can give rise to more litigation depending on the interpretation of the Judge’s rulings by both parties. Finally, when both parties agree to a final order or the Judge determines which version of the final order is proper, then the case will be over.
Divorce can be a painful process that lasts 6 months to three years depending on the circumstances and the nature of the parties involved. If you are about to file for a Divorce in the DFW Metroplex or need help call the Nacol Law Firm, experienced family law attorneys to represent your best interests throughout this painful process.
Nacol Law Firm P.C.
Julian Nacol, Attorney
Times have changed! Mothers’ having primary custody of the children is not always the accepted social presumption as in the past. Courts, legislatures and juries are becoming more aware of the vital necessity of father’s being involved in the lives of their children. Children with positive father involvement have fewer behavior problems, higher levels of sociability, and perform better in school.
Recent research suggests that father involvement is essential to a child’s social, moral, and physical growth during the adolescent period. A father’s involvement during pregnancy affects multiple areas of child development and family well- being, from prenatal care, to the likelihood that the father will provide ongoing financial and emotional support. This body of research is gaining momentum. Local and regional governmental agencies are focusing more and more on parental father involvement in the lives of children.
As a result of the continuing evolution of fathers’ rights, Courts are now recognizing a father’s ability to care for his children as an equal to that of the mother. Starting out on an equal plane, the Court may look to which parent is more stable, has a superior income, has a parenting plan in place for the child and is capable of providing proper child care and spending more quality time with the child.
As a father, how can you increase your chances of getting child custody in Texas? You must be a good father and spend time with your children by involving yourself in their daily lives. You need to be responsible and reliable to the needs of your kids. Know and participate in all aspects of their lives. This includes school activities, doctor’s appointments, extracurricular events and getting to know and bonding with their friends.
Reflect on your own personal experiences as a child growing up and think about what was really important to you and your parent’s interaction during that period.
If a father voluntarily gives up rights to his children based on prejudices of the past in the Court system, he will feed a mother’s confidence and sponsor unnecessary ongoing litigation. The number one mistake made by fathers in the court system today is a failure to take the time to learn how the system works. Failing to learn how the family law system works may doom your case. Once you have learned the ins and outs of the family law system you will need to form a viable plan, set goals and never relent in enforcing your rights as a father.
Five of the biggest mistakes men make in a legal action are: 1) failing to respond to the legal action itself; 2) obtaining incorrect legal advice (from friends and family rather than a legal expert); 3) signing a settlement agreement that is not in agreement with and later deeply regretting it; 4) failing to perform under the actual settlement agreement signed; and 5) getting frustrated and/or acquiescing to unreasonable demands and orders.
Some of the things you may want to consider as you prepare for the custody battle are as follows:
- Who has the financial ability to best care for the child(ren)? Be sure to have income tax verification, W-2 Forms and other financial information available.
- Form a parenting plan (child care, after school care, transportation, pediatrician, etc.).
- Who is more stable and/or can provide the best home for the child (ren)?
- Where has the child (ren) been attending school? Is it possible to keep the child in the same school district?
- Prepare a chronology of events leading up to the divorce including treatment of the child(ren), time spent with the child(ren), activities with the child(ren), the child(ren)’s schedule.
- Consider if a home study should be prepared regarding each home of the child.
- Consider whether a psychological evaluation should be done on the mother?
- Is drug testing necessary? (Be sure to request hair follicle drug testing.)
- Is there an alcohol or other addiction problem in the home?
- Who can provide the best moral upbringing for the children?
- Is there evidence such as pictures, video tapes, etc. that may help your case?
- Avoid unnecessary compromising photos or data on Facebook or other social networking sites.
List any other relevant issues you feel may be important to your child custody case before you meet with an attorney about your rights as a father.
Now is the time to review your 2032 Holiday Visitation Schedule with your children.
Here is a reminder of the current Texas Family Law Code’s Standard Possession Order for the 2023 Holidays.
Texas 2023 Family Law Code’s Standard Visitation Guidelines for Thanksgiving:
The possessory conservator or non-primary conservator shall have possession of the child in odd-numbered years, beginning at 6 p.m. on the day the child is dismissed from school before Thanksgiving and ending at 6 p.m. on the following Sunday, and the managing conservator shall have possession for the same period in even-numbered years; The Holiday schedule will always override the Thursday or Weekend schedules.
Texas Family Law Code’s Standard Visitation Guidelines for Christmas Break:
The possessory conservator or non-primary conservator shall have possession of the child in even numbered years beginning at 6 p.m. on the day the child is dismissed from school for the Christmas school vacation and ending at noon on December 28, and the managing conservator shall have possession for the same period in odd-numbered years.
The possessory conservator or non-primary conservator shall have possession of the child in even-numbered years beginning at noon on December 28 and ending at 6 p.m. on the day before school resumes after that vacation, and the managing conservator shall have possession for the same period in odd-numbered years; The Holiday schedule will always override the Thursday or Weekend schedules.
The Holiday Season should be a happy family time. Many times, emotional issues from the result of the break-up affects a family which causes the joy of the season to be overshadowed by unhappiness and despair! Children need to have structure in their Holiday Visitation Schedule to ensure that they will be able to see both parents and share the joy of the season with their entire family. The children are often the ones who suffer when the Holiday Visitation arrangement goes awry.
Unfortunately, many parents may wait too long to confirm visitation plans for this upcoming holiday season. If you cannot reach an agreement regarding visitation or believe you may be deprived of holiday visitation by the other parent, now is the time to contact an attorney. Time is short and Courts are already starting to overload with future visitation problems for the 2023 Holiday Season.
The best gift a child can experience for the Holiday Season is an early proactive arrangement of all holiday plans between both parents. Everyone needs to know dates and times for visitation with both Mom and Dad. This Holiday Season vow to keep your child out of the middle of any family conflict and start to develop new holiday traditions with your child and family. Many parents have new relationships/marriages and other children in the family group. The new holiday traditions should include everyone and be a bonding experience for years to come.
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Nacol Law Firm P.C.
Dallas Fathers Rights Attorneys