5 Things Fathers Need to Know About Custody
When a divorce involves minor children, it can make the divorce more stressful – and often more contentious – for everyone involved. For a father who wishes to continue to play an important role in his children’s lives, issues relating to custody (referred to as “conservatorship” in Texas) can be particularly troubling. If you are a father who is contemplating divorce, Fort Worth divorce attorney Jon Boyd explains five things a father needs to know about custody.
Fathers are awarded managing conservatorship. Once upon a time – not all that long ago – fathers were rarely granted primary custody (known as “managing conservatorship in Texas). Today, however, a father has a legitimate chance at being named managing conservator of his minor child. In fact, the law specifically prevents making decisions relating to a child based on the sex of the parent. The law must make all decisions relating to a minor child using the “best interest of the child” standard.
Fathers are routinely granted liberal parenting time. If you do not wish to be the managing conservator, or the court does not grant you that title, you can still be granted liberal visitation (referred to as “parenting time.” The days of a father only being allowed to spend one weekend a month with his children after a divorce are long gone. Today, a standard parenting time order will likely include at least every other weekend along with some time during the week and alternating holidays along with a lengthy period of time during the summer. Of course, you and the child’s mother can always agree to additional parenting time with kids that goes above and beyond the standard times OR a court could order more liberal time with the children.
A child may be able to express a preference. Although a minor child never gets to have the final say with regard to the issue of custody, the law does allow a child over the age of 12 to express a preference. This does not mean that the child will need to testify in open court “against” the other parent. Usually, the child participates in an “in camera” interview with the judge in the judge’s office. Because the law dictates that all decisions affecting a minor child must be made using the “best interest of the child” standard, a child does not decide where he/she will live. The child’s wishes will be taken into consideration along with several other statutory factors when deciding the best interests of a child.
Just because your name is on the child’s birth certificate doesn’t mean you have custodial rights to your child. If you were not married to the child’s mother when the child was born, the mother has full custodial rights to the child unless and until there is a court order establishing your parental rights. In Texas, there are two ways to legally establish paternity. If you and the child’s mother agree that you are the father, you can both sign an Acknowledgment of Paternity and file it with the state. If you do not agree, you can petition a court to establish paternity. That will usually require a DNA test to be done. If the test shows you are the father, the court will enter an order establishing paternity. At that point, you have the right to petition for conservatorship or parenting time.
You have the right to object if your spouse wants to move away. Most divorce decrees that were issued in recent years include a provision that prevents the managing conservator to move the children more than a specified distance away from where they currently live. As such, unless the terms of your divorce decree specifically give your ex the right to move more than a short distance away, she is legally required to notify you of the intent to relocate. At that point, you can consent to the move or object. If you object, she will have to petition a court and get the court’s approval. You will have the right and ability to formally object and attend the hearing that will decide if the request is approved or denied
Contact a Fort Worth Divorce Attorney
If you are a father who has additional questions or concerns about divorce, contact an experienced Fort Worth divorce attorney at Boyd Family Law to discuss your legal rights and options and to schedule your appointment today.