Going through a divorce is rarely easy. Along with the emotional upheaval you feel as a result of the end of your marriage, you must also face the practical and legal consequences of the decision to end the marriage. When minor children are involved, the already difficult process of divorce can become downright traumatic, particularly if the issue of custody of the minor children is contested. Because every divorce involves a unique set of facts and circumstances, it is in your best interest to consult with an experienced child custody attorney about specific questions. To give you an idea of what to expect, however, a Fort Worth child custody attorney provides answers to the top five child custody related questions.
What are “conservatorship” and “possession and access?” In the State of Texas, the terms “custody” and “visitation” are not used when referring to a parent’s rights to a minor child. Instead, the terms “conservatorship” and “possession and access” are used. Conservatorship refers to a parent’s right to make important decisions relating to the child. For example, a parent who has conservatorship over a child might decide what medical treatment the child receives, where the child goes to school, or what religion the child practices. Courts prefer to grant joint conservatorship unless there is a reason to name a parent sole managing conservator. Possession and access refers to where the child physically resides or the parenting time a parent spends with a child.
Will the mother automatically get custody? Although there was once a presumption in favor of the mother when custody was an issue, the law specifically forbids that now. Section 153.003 of the Texas Family Code states:
The court shall consider the qualifications of the parties without regard to their marital status or to the sex of the party or the child in determining:
which party to appoint as sole managing conservator;
whether to appoint a party as joint managing conservator; and
the terms and conditions of conservatorship and possession of and access to the child.
How does a judge decide contested cases? Ideally, the parents reach an agreement with regard to custody of the minor child; however, when an agreement is not forthcoming, a judge will decide custody issues based on the “best interest of the child” standard. Numerous factors may be considered when deciding what is in the best interest of the child, including things such as the parents’ ability to provide for the child, where the child is comfortable living, and each parent’s attitude toward the child’s relationship with the other parent.
Will I be entitled to spend time with my children if I don’t get custody? Unless the court finds a reason to limit your access to the children, you will be granted parenting time with them. Texas has a statutory standard and an extended standard possession and access schedule. The court may also fashion a schedule to fit the situation if necessary.
My ex is way behind on child support. Can I refuse to let him/her see the kids? This is a common misperception. Child support and parenting time are two separate legal issues. You cannot deny a parent his/her possession and access time with a minor child based on the fact that he/she is behind on child support. If you do, you are also violating a court order. Yes, failing to pay child support is a violation of the court’s order and your ex can be sanctioned by the court for failing behind; however, you could also face sanctions by the court if you deny your child’s other parent the court ordered parenting time that he/she is allowed to spend with the child. If you are owed child support, consult with an attorney about filing a motion for contempt, but do not confuse that issue with parenting time.
If you have additional questions or concerns regarding child custody in the State of Texas, contact an experienced Fort Worth child custody attorney at The Law Office of Jon R. Boyd to schedule your appointment today.