Child custody disputes often arise in divorce proceedings, but you might file for child custody even if you are not married. To be successful, you will need to carefully analyze your case and understand what you must prove.
Judges decide child custody issues, so you must present the case to the judge in the right way. Follow these steps below for requesting custody of your children.
Hire an Experienced Child Custody Attorney
Child custody disputes are high stakes. After a judge enters a custody order, it is very difficult to get the order modified, so you need to do this correctly the first time.
Some people are afraid of spending money on a lawyer, but a lawyer can help you save money in the long run. Only an experienced Austin child custody attorney will be able to make the most compelling case on your behalf, and a lawyer can help you anticipate problems coming down the road.
Not all Texas attorneys are the same, so you need to carefully research an attorney before hiring him. Obtain referrals and look at attorney websites to see if they practice in the child custody field. If you like a lawyer’s background, schedule a consultation to discuss your case. If you are confident in the lawyer’s abilities, go ahead and hire him for your case.
Complete Necessary Paperwork
You must file paperwork with a court to ask for child custody. The precise form you fill out will depend on your situation:
- Are you seeking custody as part of a divorce?
- Are you seeking custody but not married to the other parent?
- Have you established that you are the father?
- Is this an emergency situation, where the child has been abandoned or is in imminent danger?
For example, if you are seeking custody but are not getting divorced, then you will typically complete a form called “Suit Affecting the Parent-Child Relationship.” Your lawyer can help you fill out all paperwork, including any request for child support.
If you are getting divorced, you can make other requests, such as requests for spousal support. After completing the paperwork, your lawyer takes it to the court and files it, paying the necessary filing fee.
The other parent has a chance to respond to your request for custody, so you need to give them notification of the lawsuit. Typically, you will have a sheriff or other person personally serve copies of your paperwork on the other parent, who has a limited amount of time to file a response. You will receive a copy, which you should read carefully with your attorney.
All decisions affecting children are decided based on the child’s “best interests.” To make that determination, a judge will analyze a variety of factors. No one factor controls.
For example, it is no longer true that a mother automatically receives custody simply because she is the mother. Instead, each parent stands on equal footing in the eyes of the law, and each can be awarded custody.
As part of its analysis of what is in the child’s best interests, a judge will look at:
- Your child’s age
- Your child’s needs (emotional, physical, financial)
- The stability of your home
- Your relationship with your child
- Your child’s preference (if they are 12 or older)
- Each parent’s income and ability to provide for the child
- Any other relevant factor
To make a compelling case, you will need evidence to show the judge. Your lawyer can help you identify relevant records, including:
- Employment information
- Financial information (bank account, retirement account, etc.)
- Medical records (for you and your child)
- Police reports
Collecting evidence also means gathering evidence to use against the other parent. For example, if someone saw the other parent strike your child, you will want to introduce that testimony for the judge to consider. If the other parent has a criminal record or has moved in with someone who does, you will want to use that information as well.
Hire an Experienced Austin Child Custody Attorney
Some parents resolve child custody disputes through mediation, where they mutually agree to a parenting plan. In other situations, a trial is unavoidable and a judge will need to decide custody and visitation. Even if you hope to settle your dispute amicably, you should be prepared for the worst. By contacting the Law Office of Ben Carrasco, PLLC, you take control of the child custody dispute.