Family Law Attorney – Dallas, TX
When going through a divorce or custody battle it’s important that the welfare of your children takes priority over everything else. Child custody is a complicated matter that deserves the attention of experienced attorneys that are willing to do what it takes to ensure that your children are taken care of during this difficult time.
We know you have questions when it comes to child custody matters. We’re here to help answer them.
What does Conservatorship mean?
Under the Texas Family Code, conservatorship refers to child custody. There are different rights and duties associated with different types of conservatorship. For example, parents can be appointed Joint Managing Conservators (JMC), which gives both parents generally the same rights and duties. However, one parent will be awarded the primary right to designate the child’s residence. The other parent is then generally entitled to visitation of the child as per the standard possession order set out in the Texas Family Code. The primary parent will most likely also have the right to receive child support. Most custody cases result in the parents being appointed JMC’s when family violence or other danger is not involved.
Another type of conservatorship is Sole Managing Conservatorship. Texas Courts require a parent seeking sole managing conservatorship to show it is in the best interest of the child.
What is Standard Possession?
The non-primary parent is usually awarded standard possession of the child(ren), depending on the age of the children, whether there’s family violence, and of course whether it’s in the best interest of the child.
Standard possession under the Family Code may vary depending on several factors, however, it generally allows for the non-primary parent to have possession and access of the child(ren) on the first, third, and fifth weekend of each month. The standard possession order (SPO) also allows for the non-primary parent to have access to the child(ren) one day a week (Wednesday or Thursday) for two hours. The SPO also includes visitation for summers and holidays throughout the year.
It is also possible to deviate from the SPO in certain circumstances where a parent proves it would be in the best interest of the child or in a circumstance where the parents agree to such a deviation.
WHAT FACTORS ARE CONSIDERED WHEN DETERMINING CONSERVATORSHIP?
Texas Courts use a wide variety of factors when determining the conservatorship of the parents. However, the most important factor is the best interest of the child. In evaluating what is the best interest of the child, the Court considers the following:
1. If the child is twelve years of age or older, the Court may consider who the child wishes to primarily live with by filing a Choice of Managing Conservator with the child’s signature;
2. Family violence;
3. Drug or alcohol abuse;
4. Sexual abuse of the child the subject of your suit or any other suit;
5. Child abuse, neglect, endangerment;
6. Forms of discipline of each parent;
7. The child’s behavior with each parent.
There are many factors to be considered in making such a determination. Please contact our office to speak to an experienced attorney regarding the specifics of your case.
IF MY CHILD WANTS TO LIVE WITH ME, WHAT WOULD BE THE PROCESS?
Your attorney would need to file a Motion/Petition to Modify conservatorship, visitation and child support. Further, if your child is 12 or older, he or she may sign a choice of managing conservatorship to let the Court know they want to live with you. You may not stop paying child support until a Court terminates your child support obligation. If you stop paying child support prior to modifying, you will accrue arrears for child support. Generally, courts will not forgive arrearages occurring prior to the date you file for a modification.
CAN CHILD CUSTODY OR VISITATION BE MODIFIED?
Yes. The grounds for a modification depend on your individual circumstances, however, a Court must determine the modification sought is in the best interest of the child.
WHEN CAN I FILE A MOTION TO MODIFY FOR CUSTODY?
If you want to change conservatorship within one year of the original order, then you must meet certain requirements, along with a sworn affidavit from the party seeking the modification. However, in an emergency situation, a modification can be filed at any time.
WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO TERMINATE MY PARENTAL RIGHTS?
When a parent’s rights have been terminated, it literally means that parent no longer has any right or claim to the child. The parent can not go back at a later date and try to reinstate their rights. Once the rights have been terminated, there is no going back. That parent can no longer be obligated to pay child support or receive child support. They also cannot have any rights to visitation of the child.
CAN ANYONE TERMINATE THEIR PARENTAL RIGHTS?
The Courts do not allow just anyone under any circumstance to terminate their parental rights. There are several criteria set out in the Texas Family Code that have to be met before a Court will terminate rights. One example of grounds for termination include abandonment. Most courts require an ad litem to be appointed to determine whether the termination is in the best interest of the child.
HOW CAN I ADOPT MY STEPDAUGHTER/STEPSON?
First, the biological mother and father’s rights have to be either terminated or they have to consent to the adoption. If you are the step-father, then the biological father’s rights must be terminated before you can adopt the child. However, a petition to terminate an adopt can be filed with the Court simultaneously. If you are a step-parent, some of the requirements of an adoption may be waived, such as the criminal background check.
Ensuring the welfare of your children should be the number one concern of all parties involved. Once these matters are sorted out, the process of child support may need attention. Our law firm can help answer your questions concerning child support litigation.