Divorce can be complicated, especially when children are involved. You may go into a divorce confident that you’ll get what you want when it comes to child custody, only to discover things may turn out a lot different than expected. The best thing to do is to understand child custody arrangements ahead of time so you can work towards attainable and positive outcomes in your child custody dispute. The first thing to note about custody is that in Texas, we don’t use the terms “custody” in the Family Code. Instead, the Family Code refers to “conservatorship,” which relates to a parent’s rights and duties with respect to their child—the right to make educational and medical decisions, for example—and possession, which relates to the visitation schedule a parent will have with his child.
Is Only One Parent Awarded Child Custody?
In most cases, both parents are appointed joint managing conservators of the child, which means that both parents will have the equal right to make decisions concerning their child. However, one parent is usually appointed the primary custodial parent. This parent will have the exclusive right to designate the child’s primary residence. In other words, this is the parent with whom the child will primarily reside. The non-custodial parent will have the same rights as the other parent (with the exception of the right to designate the child’s primary residence) but will typically have visitation in accordance with the standard possession order (every first, third and fifth weekend of the month and every Thursday from 6-8pm). The non-custodial parent will also be the parent paying child support.
Are Mothers More Likely to Be Awarded Custody Over Fathers?
The Family Code expressly prohibits courts from considering gender when determining conservatorship and visitation. Instead, courts must make these determinations based on the “best interest” of the child. In general, however, mothers are still more likely to be awarded primary custody. This is because mothers still tend to be the child’s primary caretaker, a key consideration in evaluating a child’s best interest.
Can Child Custody Dispute Be Decided in Mediation?
If a couple feels they can compromise, mediation is a great way to determine child custody arrangements because it removes the risk of letting a judge make the decision for you. In mediation, a neutral mediator meets with both parties to help them create their own agreement.
The advantage of mediation is that it gives parents control over the outcome of the litigation and allows them to reach a customized agreement that best reflects their goals and plans for the children. For example, “50-50” visitation arrangements are more likely to be achieved in mediation since judges typically do not order such schedules.
If the Parents Are Not Married, Does the Father Have Child Custody Rights?
Yes. In the absence of court order, both parents have equal rights to the child. This creates significant risks for the parents, however, if the relationship goes awry and they no longer live together. Without a court order, either parent can deny possession to the other parent or move with the child. If you find yourself in this situation, you should contact an attorney to establish a court order to protect your rights.
If I Want Custody, Can I Still Move Out During the Divorce?
Leaving the children behind would be very unwise, even if you can’t stand to be in the same house as the person you’re divorcing. Moving out limits your chances at obtaining primary custody of the children later. It also suggests you are okay with letting the other parent have physical custody.
If you must leave, you should take the children with you and file for temporary orders as soon as possible. Family law judges look unfavorably on a parent who removes the children from the home without seeking the court’s recognition.
Can I Move in With My Boyfriend/Girlfriend Before a Child Custody Arrangement is Finalized?
It’s smarter to wait. While moving in with your boyfriend or girlfriend won’t completely ruin your chances of getting custody, state courts will be looking at the best interest of your child. Your boyfriend or girlfriend will be under scrutiny, as will your living arrangements.
Can We Change the Agreements of Child Support Ourselves?
No. Child support can only be modified by the court. The court will consider a change to a child support agreement if there has been a substantial change in the circumstances of the child or parent affected by the order. The parent subject to the child support order is allowed to request a review every three years.
What Child Visitation Rights Do Grandparents Have?
Can I Change My Child’s Last Name After the Divorce?
If the child has the father’s last name, the mother may wish to change it to her last name after a divorce. This choice is governed by the “best interest of the child” standard. Courts will consider how the name change would affect the child, how it would change the relationship with each parent, how it would affect the child’s identification in the family unit, how long the child has used the original name, the child’s preference, inconvenience, embarrassment, and other factors.
Can the Courts Consider the Race of the Parents in Child Custody Disputes?
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a court cannot consider race when a noncustodial parent petitions for a change of custody. Societal stigma related to race cannot be the basis for a custody decision.
Austin Child Custody Attorney
Be sure to start your child custody process with an experienced and well qualified child custody lawyer. Ben Carrasco is a family law attorney in Austin, TX who is experienced and knowledgeable in all areas of child custody. Ben is also a skilled negotiator and can help you effectively navigate both the mediation and court child custody process. Call Ben today at 512-320-9126 or request a consultation online.