How Fathers Can Improve Their Chances of Getting Child Custody in Texas
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.
Unique Possession Orders that Work with a Fathers Profession
Many professions create impositions on conservators making a standard possession order inapplicable and unworkable. The Court may deviate from a standard possession order if the order is inappropriate or unworkable in reference to the schedules of both the conservators and the child. Unique professions and irregular school schedules for children allow the Court to have flexibility to deviate from a standard possession order that is in the Best Interest of the Child. There are multiple ways in which the Court may depart from a standard possession order to fulfill the needs of all parties involved with the custody of the child.
First, the Family Code § 153.254 states that the Court will be allowed deference to modify the standard possession order if work schedules of either conservators or the school schedule of the child is irregular. The Court must attempt to narrowly tailor the modifications to keep the new possession order as similar to the standard possession order as possible. This instance most commonly occurs when the Managing Conservator and the Possessory Conservator cannot reach an agreement and one of the two Conservators has a unique profession such as a firefighter, police officer, or airline pilot. The working hours of these jobs allow the Court to modify the standard possession order even if both of the parties do not comply with the changes. The modifications must be made only if it is in the Best Interest of the Child.
Secondly, the standard possession order may always be modified if it is by the mutual agreement of both the Managing Conservator and Possessory Conservator. Family Code § 153.007 is the Agreed Parenting Plan Statute and allows for both parties to agree on a standard possession order for the child. This statute was passed to promote amicability in settlement for child custody issues and to give flexibility to the parents if they are willing to agree on custody terms. The Agreed Parenting Plan must be in the Best Interest of the Child for the Court to approve. If the Court grants the Agreed Parenting Plan then the Managing or Possessory Conservator will have a remedy as a matter of law for any violation of the agreement committed by either party.
Finally, both Conservators may enter into a Mediated Settlement Agreement under Family Code § 153.0071. A Mediated Settlement Agreement is the only time in which the Court will NOT look at the Best Interest of the Child when granting the custody agreement.
The Mediated Settlement Agreement § 153.0071 must be:
- In bold, underlined, and capital letters that the agreement is NOT REVOCABLE
- Signed by Both Parties to the agreement
- Signed by the lawyers (if represented) of each party
The Mediated Settlement Agreement is binding and not revocable so if the Conservators wish to go this route they must understand that what is in the agreement will be held as binding. This method can be used to modify or change a standard possession order and the Court will not look at the Best Interest of the Child regarding the agreement, unless there exists a credible threat of domestic violence.
These are the methods in which a unique possession order may be obtained to accommodate irregular schedules or working hours of both the conservators. Any possession order must be correctly drafted and all future contingencies must be accounted for. An experienced lawyer must be contacted to safeguard an individual’s custody rights of their children and to make sure that a fair custody arrangement is obtained.
My Kids have been hidden by my Ex! And I don’t know where they are…
This is a “Never Want to Live Through” Scenario: After a family breakup or divorce, your kids are picked up by your Ex and they all disappear! Where are they? Are they in danger? 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?
- Thinking 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!
- Make a list of possible locations the runaway parent may have taken the children. This helps the police in their search.
- Contact a family law attorney immediately. 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.
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.
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 a custody agreement is in place with the courts, it is legally binding. If the runaway parent violates the agreement terms, this parent is in violation of the law and will likely face some serious legal problems.
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 moved 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 will legally be changed by court orders. You will 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.
Preventing Out of State Relocation of Children by Custodial Parent
Mom and Dad are divorcing or have been divorced and are now sharing joint custody of their children in the same city in Texas. One parent receives a letter from the other parent’s attorney requesting that this parent be allowed to relocate the children to another state so he/she may take a better job position with another company! This is a dilemma no parent ever wants to experience! Child Custody cases involving interstate relocation jurisdiction issues cause much heartache and are costly legal battles.
What can a Parent do to protect themselves from children being relocated away from the non-moving parent to another state without her/his consent? How may this affect the parent’s relationship with the children?
The Texas Family Code 153.002 Best Interest of Child states “The best interest of the child shall always be the primary consideration of the court in determining the primary consideration of the court in determining the issues of conservatorship and possession of and access to the child.”
The Texas Family code does not elaborate on the specific requirement for modification in the residency-restriction context, and there are no specific statutes governing residency restrictions or their removal for purposes of relocation. Texas Courts have no statutory standards to apply to this context.
The Texas Legislature has provided Texas Family Code 153.001, a basic framework on their public policy for all suits affecting the parent-child relationship:
The public policy of this state is to:
Assure the children will have frequent and continuing contact with parents who have shown the ability to act in the best interest of the child;
Provide a safe, stable, and nonviolent environment for the child;
Encourage parents to share in the rights and duties of raising their child after the parents have separated or dissolved their marriage.
How does The State of Texas treat an initial Child Custody determination?
Texas Family Code 152.201 of the UCCJEA states, among other things, that a court may rule on custody issues if the Child:
*Has continually lived in that state for 6 months or longer and Texas was the home state of the child within six months before the commencement of the legal proceeding.
*Was living in the state before being wrongfully abducted elsewhere by a parent seeking custody in another state. One parent continues to live in Texas.
*Has an established relationship with people (family, relatives or teachers), ties, and attachments in the state
*Has been abandoned in an emergency: or is safe in the current state, but could be in danger of neglect or abuse in the home state
Relocation is a child custody situation which will turn on the individual facts of the specific case, so that each case is tried on its own merits.
Most child custody relocation cases tried in Texas follow a predictable course:
Allowing or not allowing the move.
Order of psychological evaluations or social studies of family members
Modification of custody and adjusting of child’s time spent with parents
Adjusting child support
Order of mediation to settle dispute
Allocating transportation costs
Order opposing parties to provide all information on child’s addresses and telephone #
Help to Prevent Your Child’s Relocation in a Texas Court by Preparing Your Case!
Does the intended relocation interfere with the visitation rights of the non- moving parent?
The effect on visitation and communication with the non-moving parent to maintain a full and continuous relationship with the child
How will this move affect extended family relationships living in the child’s current location?
Are there bad faith motives evident in the relocating parent?
Can the non-moving parent relocate to be close to the child? If not, what type of separation hardship would the child have?
The relocating parent’s desire to accommodate a new job, spouse, or other criteria above the parent-child relationship. A Parent’s personal desire for move rather than need to move?
Is there a significant degree of economic, emotional or education enhancement for the relocating parent and child in this move?
Any violation of an order or prior notice of the intended move or a temporary restraining order
Are Special Needs/ Talents accommodated for the child in this move?
Fear of child and high cost of travel expenses for non-moving parent or child to visit each other to be able to continue parent- child relationship.
What other Paramount Concerns would affect the child concerning the relocation from the non-moving parent?
At the Nacol Law Firm PC, we represent many parents trying to prevent their child from relocating to another city or state and having to experience “A Long Distance Parental Relationship” brought on by a better job or new life experience of the relocating parent! We work at persuading courts to apply the specific, narrow exceptions to these general rules in order to have child custody cases heard in the most convenient forum in which the most qualifying, honest evidence is available; cases where the child’s home state or other basic questions are clarified, and cases where a parent has the right in close proximity with their child regardless of other less important factors.