Trusted Houston Child Custody Attorneys and Lawyers
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A child custody lawyer is a family law attorney who specializes in handling cases involving child custody or visitation of a child. Texas Lawyer Referral Service specializes in helping people find a Houston child custody lawyer who will help them with their case. Houston child custody attorneys can educate you further on child custody law in Texas.
What is Child Custody Law?
Child custody refers to the legal obligation, and right a parent or guardian has to care for, make decisions for, supervise, educate and control a minor child for whom he/she is responsible.
Child custody issues may arise in any of the following situations:
- when a married couple with a minor child of the marriage seeks a divorce;
- if two unmarried parents of a minor child cannot come to an agreement about custody outside of court;
- a parent or legal guardian is found to be unfit or dangerous for the child’s well-being by a court or state agency; and
- either or both parents are absent or deceased.
Custody is not limited to the child’s parent, but can also be awarded to other family members, or to a foster home.
There are two main categories of child custody, legal and physical, which are then also assigned as either sole or joint.
Legal custody deals more with the rights and responsibilities of a parent rather than where the child lives. It allocates who can make decisions about significant issues in the child’s life, such as education, medical and healthcare decisions and the child’s overall welfare. Joint legal custody makes it necessary for the parents to communicate effectively with each other.
Physical custody addresses where the child will reside and for how long. Furthermore, who will have the day to day responsibilities of the child as well as deciding what is best for the child?
When joint physical custody is awarded, the child will spend time living with both parents or legal guardians. In fact, this does not mean that the time must be divided equally. It says that the child is cared for according to the guidelines outlined in the custody arrangement.
Houston Child Custody Law Will Vary From State to State
The courts will always base child custody arrangements based on the best interest of the child. Furthermore, these factors may vary from state to state. If joint parents can agree with their child, the court may grant joint custody.
Furthermore, when one parent or guardian is granted sole physical custody, the other will get visitation. Visitation means that that parent or guardian will spend weekends, certain holidays & other days that are agreed. Courts will reserve the right to modify custody arrangements as they see fit.
The term “child custody” usually refers to the child’s parent who has the right to spend the most time with the child and has the most responsibilities and rights associated with the child. Although sometimes a person who is not the child’s parent may have these rights and responsibilities, these arrangements are usually referred to as “guardianships.”
Houston Child Custody Process: Types of Child Custody
Although most people believe that child custody refers to physical possession of the child, there are two different types of custody: physical custody and legal custody.
Physical custody refers to the right of the parent to have the child live with him or her. If the child primarily resides with one parent, this parent may have sole physical custody. If the child spends significant amounts of time with both of his or her parents, the child may have joint physical custody. A parent can have joint physical custody of a child and not have the child precisely 50 percent of the time.
If one parent has sole physical custody, the other parent may be awarded visitation with the child.
Legal custody refers to the right of a parent to make major decisions regarding the child. It usually includes decisions regarding the child’s health, education, extracurricular activities, and religion. In many states, the courts presume that awarding joint legal custody is in the child’s best interests. A parent who believes that the other will not make responsible decisions on behalf of the child or who significantly disagrees with the other parent may petition the court for sole legal custody.Even though there may be some bitterness or bad feelings between the parents, it is best for the child if the parents work together.
When determining whether to grant sole custody or joint custody, the court does not have to provide the same award for the different types of custody. For example, a judge can order joint physical custody but sole legal custody to one parent. Likewise, the court can order joint legal custody but award sole physical custody of the child to one parent.
The current trend of many courts and legislative bodies is to recognize the importance that each parent plays in the child’s life. Many states agree that the best interest of the child is served by awarding joint custody. In these situations, the parents may be granted joint custody unless one proves that the other is unfit, such as by showing proof of child abuse, neglect or substance abuse.
One of the primary considerations when determining how to split up parenting time with joint custody is the parents’ work schedules. Often, this helps to identify the parenting schedule. For example, a parent who works during the week may have parenting time during the weekend. A part-time employee may have parenting time during non-work hours.
Some Common Arrangements that Courts Order Include:
·Separating the children by the week: Children stay at the first parent’s home on Sunday-Wednesday and the second parent’s house between Thursday-Saturday.
·Alternating months: The parents remain at the primary parent’s home in January and the second parent’s home in February.
·Alternating six months: The parents spend January through June in the first parent’s house and July through December in the second parent’s home.
·Weekends and holidays: The children spend the school year with the primary parent and weekends, summer and holidays with the other parent.
Houston Joint Custody Process Explained
Joint custody arrangements work best for parents who can cooperate and work out an agreement that addresses the family’s needs. It often benefits the children who have more time with each parent while ensuring that both parents remain active parts of their children’s life. If a parent does not cooperate with joint custody, the other parent may seek to enforce the order by having the court find the non-compliant parent in contempt of court. He or she may also try to modify the order by asking for sole custody.
Even when parents have joint custody, one of the parents may still be required to pay child support to the other parent. Child support formulas often take many factors into consideration when determining how much child support should be awarded. The amount of parenting time may be one such factor.
Savvy Houston Child Custody Attorneys Can Assist with Determining Custody
There are two types of ways that custody decisions are made: by agreement or through contested hearings.
Often, parents may agree about which parent should have primary custody of the child. They may decide that the primary caregiver continues this role after the divorce or the severance of the relationship. Alternatively, they may agree to joint custody. Furthermore, even if they are not on the same page, they may come to accept via negotiations or mediation.
Houston Child Custody Lawyers Talk About Mediation
Mediation is a non-adversarial process in which the parties of a legal dispute attempt to work out a settlement of their case. A third party neutral facilitates communication, helps identify the interests of the parties and makes suggestions on possible solutions. The goal of family law mediation is to get the parents to put aside their differences and focus on their children. Moreover, divorce mediation also helps to avoid expensive court fees.
In some jurisdictions, mediation is mandated by the court before a contested hearing can ensue.
A parenting agreement outlines how the parents will make decisions regarding their children. This arrangement may take the place of a court order or be an alternative to a standard court order.
Parenting agreements may contain provisions regarding:
·The general custody and living arrangements
·Specific times and dates when each parent will have the child
·Financial considerations, including child support, additional child-related expenses, and travel expenses
·Provisions regarding parental relocation and travel with the children
·Provisions regarding decisions about the child’s education, medical needs, extracurricular activities and religion
·Any other provisions that the parents agree to
Parenting agreements may be borne out of parental cooperation or as a document produced during mediation.
Houston Child Custody Attorneys Can Assist with Contested Custody Issues
Can’t agree on who should have child custody? You may need to contest your custody issues. This process starts with one parent filing a complaint or petition that asks for what they are wanting.
The other party must provide a proper response within the designated timeframe. Also, both sides can retain the services of a Houston family law lawyer to represent their them in this matter.
Houston Child Custody Lawyers Discuss Pre-Hearing Processes
Some discovery related processes include:
·Interrogatories – the parties may ask for specific information from the other side to assist in their case and preparation
·Production requests – the parties may ask the other party to provide concrete evidence, such as photographs, and voicemails. Furthermore, also text messages, email correspondence, tax returns and check stubs.
·Admissions requests – the parties may try to narrow the contested issues by having the other side admit certain things.
Additionally, the court may mandate mediation, meetings with other individuals such as child custody evaluators and parenting class attendance.
Child Custody Evaluations
Child custody evaluations can help the court gather more information to make an educated decision. The child custody evaluation may start with an initial interview in which the evaluator interviews each parent. Furthermore, they will interview each parent to learn about the role each parent plays in the child’s life.
The child custody evaluator may also request that each parent provides a release for specific information. Also, this may include the parent and child’s medical records, educational records and psychological records.
Houston Child Custody Lawyers Discuss Evaluation Process
The child custody evaluator may discuss the case with other parties involved. For example teachers, doctors, siblings and other relatives. Usually, the child custody evaluator conducts home visits in which he or she evaluates the home and the relationship between each parent and the child in the home environment.
After the evaluation is complete, the evaluator may prepare a report and submit it to the court. He or she may also provide an opinion at the hearing. Although the family court judge is usually not required to adopt the suggestion of the child custody evaluator, the judge will often seriously consider the recommendations.
Guardian Ad Litem
In some cases, the court may appoint a guardian ad litem. An ad litem is a lawyer or other individual who acts in the interests of the child. Furthermore, this individual represents the child and may participate in the proceedings.
Houston Child Custody Lawyers Discuss the Best Interests of the Child
Courts use the “best interests of the child” standard when determining custody issues. Moreover, the court may consider some factors based on state statute or common law.
These factors often include:
- The age of the child
- The sex of the child
- The health of the child
- The health and age of each parent
- Any history of domestic violence in the home, especially that targeted at the child
- The child’s preference if he is above a certain age or has the maturity to express it
- The relationship between the child and each parent
- Whether the child has siblings in either home
- The parent’s ability to provide for the basic needs of the child
- The quality of education that the child is currently receiving
- The impact that is changing the status quo would have on the child
- A history of substance abuse in the home
- Whether the parent would foster a relationship with the other parent and the child
Judge’s Determination According to Houston Child Custody Attorneys
The judge will hear the testimony and review all evidence presented at the hearing. After this, the judge may decide the case immediately or postpone the decision.
Furthermore, if a judge gives sole custody to one parent, he or she may grant “reasonable” visitation to the non-custodial parent.
Modify a Child Custody Order By Working with Houston Child Custody Attorneys
If one or both of the parents want to change the child custody order, one parent may petition the court for a modification. Research your local state laws for more information.
Questions Regarding Houston Child Custody Law?
Individuals who would like to learn more about their rights and options may choose to contact experienced Houston child custody attorneys or family law lawyers for assistance.
Consult Houston Child Custody Attorneys Today
If you need legal assistance from Houston child custody attorneys, fill out our form on this page. Also, call us to get referrals to experienced custody lawyers.