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.
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.
In our world today many fathers are facing a regrettable and inevitable DIVORCE! Either through Mom’s decision or Dad’s, it may be the end of a joint family life that includes both parents in one residence. No one is ever happy, but by doing some research and trying to make reasonable decisions, fathers will persevere and hopefully you will be able to maintain your loving relationship with your children and family.
Some things to remember:
- Your children love you and just because you are no longer living with their mom, doesn’t change your love. You keep your opinions to yourself and not share all your adult thoughts with your children. YOU LOVE THEM AND ALWAYS WILL! NOTHING HAS CHANGED IN YOUR INTEREST OR LOVE FOR YOUR Children. Mom is no longer in your home and love with the children. She has her own relationship with the family now.
- You do have definite rights to your children. When the decision has been made to file for divorce, employ an experienced attorney to help guide you through this process. Negative statements, even when true, ARE NOT HELPFUL! Uninformed opinions from your soon to be ex, concerning your rights with the children, are suspect, since you now are on opposing sides. A very knowledgeable Fathers Rights Attorney is up to date on all current issues in Fathers Rights domestic litigation and the courts, and this is who you should listen to for guidance.
- As the divorce proceeds and behaviors by the divorcing couple become hostile and estranged, just remember that self-control and acting rationally, without anger, will help in eliminating future ammunition to be used against you in the divorce and custody case. Self-control in your behavior and attitude will help you keep an upper hand in the Divorce proceeding and help the outcome.
- Finally, you are not the victim! Don’t lay down dead and let Mom run over you! There is life after the death of a marriage and you will learn that not only may your life be better, but your life with your children will be enhanced! The children will have watched you act like an adult and parent who loves them and wants the best for them, but also wants a good life with them in the after-divorce life.
Now the Divorce process has begun. Either you or your wife have “Lawyered Up” and the Legal Process has begun! Some very good advice to consider following at the beginning of a Divorce:
- Get your financial documents in order: Review our blog “Prepare for Your Divorce” to start getting ready in the financial part of the divorce. Subject to the outstanding standing order of the court, be sure to protect all joint bank accounts and open new ones for your individual use. Also, if indicated and necessary, delete spouse from all your credit and charge cards.
- Depending on the age, meet with your children and discuss what is happening to your family. Make sure they know that your relationship with them will never change and you will always be their father and show this by loving actions and affections. Confirm that you are divorcing their Mother, not them.
- Stay on your best behavior during this stressful time. Watch your consumption of alcohol intake and try to stay in good company. You need to show that you are not the aggressor. Never let Mom provoke you into a stressful situation where you may engage in a public spectacle with any form of emotional, physical or sexual abuse against Mom or others. The Judge or jury would not be impressed!
- If you have not hired an attorney, now is the time to “lawyer up”. You need to find a competent attorney who has a good reputation dealing with fathers and their rights to their children. Look on legal websites and blogs to see if an attorney relates to your legal needs. Check on fathers’ rights blogs and see if an attorney has answered questions about a similar family situation as yours and has suggested good solutions to help resolve the issues. Give this attorney a call and set up a consultation to see if he/she would be a fit for your legal need.
- If life and divorce pressures are making you depressed, search out for help with supportive family or friends, clergy or professional counselors. Studies have concluded that Divorce is one of the most stressful events in an individual’s life. Get the support you need to be able to make wise decisions and to promote honest interaction with others during this most stressful time.
Like death, Divorce is one of life’s worst events. Know that this difficult time will someday be over, but also along this path there will be unknown surprises and events, that will test your honesty and dignity as a father and a parent. But in the end, you will make it and still be the father that you need to be to your children.
Stay Calm. This too shall pass….
Nacol Law Firm P.C.
Dallas Fathers Rights Attorneys
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, in many cases, has a life-altering impact on a child’s development and well-being. Given that one out of every two marriages ends in divorce, thousands of children are impacted each year. Divorce places enormous stress on a child trying to adjust to new feelings and rapidly changing situations in their lives. The resulting instability often leads to resentment towards the child’s parents and a difficulty acclimating to all the abrupt and immediate changes in a child’s life.
Children perceive divorce as a very traumatic event and are very concerned about their security. Many children internalize the dissolution and blame themselves for the breakup. They are scared that both parents may leave them.
Some very disturbing research on children and divorce has just been released by the Census Bureau Study, “The Marital Events of Americans: 2009”.
*1.5% of US children live in the home of a parent who divorced in the last year. The average age of the child is 9.8 yrs. old and the male/female ration is 1:1.
*64% of the children were White, non- Hispanic children, with the largest percentage living in the South (41%).
*Children living with a divorced parent are likely to be in a household below the poverty level (28%) and more likely to be living in a rented home (53%).
*Most children live in a mother headed households (73%). Because mothers have lower earning potential in the labor force, the family often lives below the poverty level.
*These children of divorce are often living with their parents’ unmarried partner (13%). Only 5% of the children are living in a household with a married couple.
Children of divorce often suffer from anxiety, depression and reduced self-esteem issues. Robert Hughes, associate professor in the Dept. of Human Development and Family Science, Ohio State University, found that children from divorce are more aggressive and more likely to get in to trouble with school authorities or police during adolescence. Also children from divorce are more vulnerable to becoming a victim of violence or become a perpetrator of violent acts on themselves and or others.
If you are considering divorce, carefully consider the impact on your children. To help children through this difficult time, parents must realize and accept that they are responsible for this situation and that their children often suffer as a result of the parent’s decision.
Parents should be very sensitive to the child’s emotional needs to ensure the best possible adjustment of his or her mental, physical, spiritual well-being towards a healthy, responsible adult. Remember! Your child is the “Innocent Bystander.”
Seek professional help if you child is struggling with the changes in his or her life. Your attorney knows a resource that may be available to address your child’s pressing needs.