Divorce can be complicated, but one of the things that can snarl the process further is having children. When a couple has children together, both spouses want to spend as much time with their kids as possible. To this end, they both might want physical custody of their children, and this legal battle is typically what lengthens a divorce process. If you’re a parent, you might have some questions about the child custody process and Texas laws regarding it. Here are a few questions that might address your concerns.
Question 1: What’s the Difference Between Legal and Physical Custody?
If you heard someone refer to legal or physical custody, you might not know the difference between the two. Legal custody is something both parents typically share. This type of conservatorship is the ability to make important decisions on behalf of your child, such as where the child goes to school, what religion to teach him or her, and where he or she receives medical care. Physical custody refers to where the child lives. Some parents share physical custody by splitting time with the child, while in other cases, only one parent has primary physical custody.
Question 2: Does an Unmarried Mother Need to File for Custody?
Under Texas law, mothers who aren’t married are automatically the sole legal and physical custodians of an infant at birth. However, if paternity has been legally established, an unmarried father has the right to file for custody in family court.
Question 3: How Do Courts Determine Who Gets Custody?
The goal of family law courts with regard to children is doing what is in each child’s best interests. The court will evaluate the home environment each parent offers, the distance between each parent’s homes, each parent’s ability to serve as a caretaker, whether the parents can work together, each parent’s financial circumstances and employment situation, and the child’s preference (if he or she is at least 12 years old). Most courts will try to award equal time to both parents unless child abuse is involved.
Question 4: What Do Courts Mean by the “Best Interests of the Child”?
Family law courts make child custody and child support decision based on what is considered the child’s best interests. This refers to what is the “best” or most ideal situation possible for him or her. These standards will vary from state to state, but the court will generally presume it is best for a kid to maintain relationships with both parents to whatever extent possible.
Question 5: Do I Need a Child Custody Lawyer?
Hiring a legal advocate can be expensive unless you are eligible for no- or low-cost representation through various organizations. Divorcing parents who can agree on most points regarding child custody will likely not need a lawyer. However, if your ex is demanding full custody of your child, you may want to consider hiring an advocate. If you need to appear in court, a lawyer will present your case best and will give you a better chance of meeting your goals.
Question 6: If I Have Custody, Will I Receive Child Support?
The court will determine how much child support will be necessary based on the child’s needs. Usually, the parent who has primary physical custody of the child will receive child support payments from the other parent. Both parents are required to pay child support, but the expenses of housing, feeding, and caring for a child account for the primary custodial parent’s share.
Question 7: Can I Refuse to Allow Visitation If My Ex Doesn’t Pay Child Support?
The short answer is no. Visitation is ordered by the court, and violating this order is against the law. However, if your ex is not sending in what he or she should, you can ask the court to take action on your behalf. The court has the power to garnish your ex’s wages or even impose a jail sentence if he or she still refuses to pay the support amount.
Question 8: Can My Child Decide Which Parent to Live With?
Under Texas law, a child has a right to make it known to the court which parent he or she wishes to live with if he or she is 12 or older. However, the court will not take this as the sole factor when making the child custody decision. It will be one among many factors a judge will consider regarding a child’s best interests.
Question 9: What Is a Parenting Plan?
A parenting plan outlines the rights and duties of a parent regarding his or her child. Some rights and responsibilities include primary residence, making decisions on health care, deciding the child’s education, child support, and more. Every case involving children will need a parenting plan. Some divorcing couples can agree on what this looks like before even beginning the divorce, making the entire process that much faster.
Question 10: What Is Mediation?
Mediation is a nonbinding process involving a neutral third party helping a couple hash out the details of their divorce. More couples have been opting for mediation rather than going to court because it tends to be faster and cheaper. A qualified mediator can help divorcing couples come to a decision regarding property division, child custody, child support, and spousal support.
If you have more questions regarding child custody, don’t hesitate to give us a call. Adams Law Firm has more than 35 years of legal experience to offer you and your family. Whether you need help with the entire divorce process or just with child custody proceedings, we can help. Our Katy family law attorneys are dedicated to helping families through the difficult emotional process of divorce. Let us see what we can do for you in a case consultation.