Fighting over the custody of a beloved child can be one of the most emotionally draining experiences a parent will face. It is often very difficult to think clearly when your future as a parent to your child is on the line. You are sure to be facing a wide range of emotions, from fear, to anxiety, to sadness, to anger. However, it is vitally important that you keep your cool and do not lose focus on what is important: that your child ends up at home with you where they belong.
At The Queenan Law Firm, P.C., our team of experienced Arlington, TX child custody lawyers knows the complex laws that underlie these cases like the back of our hands. For years, we have successfully fought in the Arlington courts for our clients to be granted the type of custody of their children that they desire. We understand how hard this time might be for you, and we are here to answer all of you questions and guide you through every step of the process. Call us today at (817) 476-1797 for a confidential consultation.
Types of Custody Agreements in Arlington, TX
In Texas, child custody is actually referred to by the term “conservatorship.” There are three major types of conservatorships granted in Texas.
Joint Managing Conservatorship
The first, and perhaps most common, is a joint managing conservatorship. This means that both parents will have equal say in decisions involving the child. While one parent’s home will typically serve as the primary physical residence of the child, the child will spend time residing with both parents.
Each parent, under a joint managing conservatorship, will share certain rights when it comes to parenting their child or children. General information regarding a child’s health, welfare, and education should be shared between the co-parents. More specifically, each parent has access to the educational, medical, dental, and psychological records of the child. Additionally, neither parent will prohibit communication with any medical professional. This includes providing consent for any medical, dental, or psychological care or treatment. Furthermore, both co-parents are entitled to discuss a child’s educational progress with schoolteachers and officials.
Sole Managing Conservatorship
Conversely, a sole managing conservatorship occurs when only one parent is given the right to make basic life decisions on behalf of the child. Such decisions might include where the child goes to school, what type of medical or psychological treatment the child receives, what type of extracurricular activities the child participates in, and the granting of parental consent needed for marriage, military enlistment, or other such things. A parent with a sole managing conservatorship will also have physical custody of the child.
Texas courts prefer joint managing conservatorships. However, there are many reasons why a court would grant a parent sole managing conservatorship of a child or children. In some situations, one parent simply does not want the responsibilities associated with a joint managing conservatorship. Some other common reasons are more serious, including:
- The parent had a history of violence or abuse
- The parent had a history of alcoholism or drug use
- There is a history of criminal activity
- The parent has been purposefully absent in the child’s life
- The couple has a history of intense conflicts over religious matters, medical care, or educational decisions.
The final type of conservatorship is possessory conservatorship. A parent with a possessory conservatorship will not have the right to make basic life decisions regarding the child, which will be left up to the parent with the sole managing conservatorship. Contrary to its name, the parent with a possessory conservatorship also does not have possession of the child in terms of the child’s primary residence. Rather, a parent with a possessory conservatorship will only have visitation rights with the child, typically on a court-ordered schedule.
While a parent with a possessory conservatorship rights are restricted regarding the child’s welfare and well-being, they retain certain rights regarding their child or children, including:
- The right to receive information from the sole managing conservator regarding the health, well-being, and education of the child
- The right to access the child’s medical and educational records
- The right to confer with medical professionals and healthcare providers of their child
- The right to attend the child’s school activities
- Each conservator has the duty to inform the other if the conservator lives with, is engaged to, or has married someone who is knowingly registered as a sex offender or is charged with an offense that could result in having to register as a sex offender.
Visitation Rights in Arlington, Texas
Visitation in Texas is called possession of and access to a child. Any parent has a right to possession and access unless the court decides that it is not in the best interest of the child. This usually is a finding that the parent presents a physical or emotional danger to the child.
In child custody matters, a standard possession order will be issued by a judge. Often parents can agree to a schedule. If this is not the case, the court will order a schedule that it believes is appropriate. It is crucial to have our experienced Arlington attorney assist you in petitioning the court for a visitation schedule so you do not lose any of your parental rights.
Parenting Plans in Arlington, TX
The Texas court encourages all parents to create their own custody and visitation plan before their conservatorship hearing. The plan should include detailed provisions indicating where the child will reside, including a schedule of times and days if physical custody would be shared. The schedule should address the workweek, weekends, school holidays, vacations, birthdays, and other special occasions. If one parent has sole physical custody, the noncustodial parent’s visitation schedule should be outlined in complete detail to avoid confusion on potential conflicts. Our Arlington child custody attorney can assist you in negotiating these terms with the other parent.
If the parents can come to an amicable agreement that addresses the child’s best interests, the court would adopt the custody agreement and make it a legally binding order. If terms of the agreement are contested, the parents can turn to the court to provide guidance or issue a decision based on the best interests of the child. If the parents are working together, despite a few areas of disagreement, the court is more likely to work towards a solution that will satisfy all parties. If the parents are in complete conflict, and unable to agree to any terms, then the court will issue a custody order based on the facts of the situation and evidence provided. It is usually in both parents’ best interests, and that of the child, to find a way to come to a solution that makes everyone comfortable. It is not uncommon for a decision by the court to feel unfair to one, or both, of the parents.
How Child Custody is Decided in Arlington, Texas
The basic standard used to determine child custody by the Texas courts is the “best interests of the child” standard. This means that at all times, the best interests of the child will be the foremost consideration in deciding whether to grant a joint conservatorship, which parent gets primary physical custody, and how much visitation time is granted to and child support is required from the secondary parent.
The following are some of the issues taken into consideration when deciding the best interests of the child in custody cases:
- The wishes of the child, especially when the child is 12 or older
- Current and future emotional and physical needs of the child and whether each parent has the resources and skills to meet them
- Each parent’s parenting capability
- Each parent’s plan for raising and providing for the child
- The stability of the proposed home
- Acts such a domestic violence or physical or emotional abuse that might indicate one parent is not fit to raise the child
The Texas courts have expressed a preference for joint managing conservatorships when possible. The court will decide if a joint managing conservatorship is appropriate based on the demonstrated ability of the parents to work together for the best interests of the child, whether each parent can encourage a positive relationship between the child and the other parent, the respective parents’ role and level of involvement in raising the child thus far, and the child’s own wishes, if they are older than 12.
At The Queenan Law Firm, P.C., our attorneys know how to fight for you to be given a joint or sole managing conservatorship so that you have a say in major life decision’s involving your child. We know what judges are looking to hear and can prep you so that your background and current home life are presented to the court in the best possible light.
Primary Physical Custody in Arlington, TX
Typically, even in the case of a joint managing conservatorship, one parent will be granted primary physical custody of the child, meaning that parent’s home will serve as the primary physical home for the child. This is decided by which parent has been the primary caretaker for the child up to this point, each parent’s financial situation and the stability of home life, and the child’s wishes, if the child is older than 12.
The court will look at a number of factors when determining which conservator should be granted primary physical custody. Providing evidence of being the primary caregiver is essential in demonstrating your parental role. Some of the conduct the court will consider in its decision include:
- Which parent fed and bathed the child
- Which parent prepared the child for school
- Which parent took and picked up the child from daycare or school
- Which parent scheduled and attended doctor’s and dentist appointments
- Which parent attended school field trips, activities, and teacher conferences
- Which parent assisted the child with homework
Child Support in Arlington, TX
Often, whichever parent has primary physical custody will be owed child support by the other parent, even if it is a joint managing conservatorship. Child support is determined based on each parent’s financial situation and how much the primary caretaker is contributing to everyday expenses such as the child’s food, clothing, etc. If the child has special needs, these will also be taken into account. Our Arlington, TX child custody lawyers know how to fight for you to receive the support money you are owed if you are the primary physical caretaker. If you are the parent paying child support, we can make sure you are not paying more than you owe and that the money you pay is actually going to the child’s living expenses and not to the other parent.
In Texas, who will be responsible for child support payments is determined by physical custody. While it is possible a court could order both parents to pay support for a child, typically, the responsibility falls to the noncustodial parent.
The amount required for child support is based on a percentage of the parent’s income. Despite any court order, parents can pay more than legally required. However, even if both parents agree, the amount cannot be lowered below the court-ordered amount.
It is important to note that child support does not rest solely on the noncustodial parent. The court assumes that the conservator with primary physical custody will be spending money directly on the child, including food, clothing, medical expenses, and other daily costs associated with raising a child.
If You Need a Child Custody Lawyer, Call Our Experienced Arlington, Texas Attorneys Today
Child custody battles can be extremely draining. While it is sometimes the case that parents can work out these issues among themselves, oftentimes what starts as a cooperative process can descend into a bitter battle. This is why it is vital that you have an experienced Arlington, TX child custody lawyer fighting for your rights inside and outside of the courtroom. Our attorneys will be your advocates and your advisers through this trying time. For a consultation with our Arlington, TX family law attorneys, call us today at (817) 476-1797.