Protecting Your Rights as a Parent | Helping You Craft Conservatorships that Are in the Best Interests of Your Children
Determining what custody and visitation will look like after a divorce can be one the most challenging parts of a divorce proceeding. You both want what’s in the best interests of your children, but you also want to be actively involved in their lives, playing a meaningful role in their growth and development. Often, you can come to a workable arrangement for custody and visitation. When you can’t, though, you want an experienced and compassionate attorney to help protect your legal right. Bailey & Galyen can help.
At Bailey & Galyen, we have provided effective divorce and family law counsel to clients in Fort Worth and throughout Texas for more than four decades, handling child custody disputes across the Lone Star State. We built our successful practice on a commitment to hard work and unmatched client service. We’ll take the time to listen carefully, so that we know your circumstances and what you want to achieve. We’ll keep you involved and informed at all times, updating you on any developments in your case, as well as your likelihood for success, so that you can make the right decisions about your child custody issues. We know the importance of consistent communication with legal counsel and will strive to be there when you need to talk with us.
What Are the Basic Child Custody Laws in Texas?
The rights and responsibilities of all parents are set forth in the Texas Family Code, which gives mothers and fathers equal rights under the law. Under Texas law, when a marriage is dissolved and there are children who are under the age of 18, both parents are presumed by law to be “joint managing conservators.” That means that they have equal decision-making authority and responsibility for those minor children. The presumption, however, does not guarantee the mother and the father equal time with the children.
The parties to a divorce proceeding can formulate and agree to their own custody/visitation plan, without the involvement of the court. Nonetheless, the custody arrangement must be put in writing and submitted to the court for its approval.
What Are the Different Types of Child Custody in Texas
In Texas, there are two common types of custody or conservatorship:
Joint managing conservatorships—This arrangement presumes that the parents will share all rights and duties of parenthood. The court may, however, grant one of the parties the exclusive right to make certain decisions, if the court determines that doing so is “in the best interests of the child.” The divorce decree will typically identify both separate and joint powers and responsibilities.
It’s also typical, with a joint managing conservatorship, for the court to grant one parent primary physical custody and allow the other parent regular visitation. The specific terms of visitation are customarily included in a separate court order referred to as a “standard possession order.”
- Sole managing conservatorships—When the court determines that doing so will be in the best interests of the minor child, it will grant one parent the sole or exclusive right to make decisions regarding the welfare of the child. This authority commonly extends to decisions about:
- The child’s primary residence
- Any medical or dental care required by the child
- Where the child will attend school
- Any extracurricular activities in which the child may participate
- Any psychological or psychiatric care the child may need
- Who will be designated as a contact person in an emergency situation
As a general rule, when one parent gets sole managing conservatorship, that party also has the right to receive child support.
How Is Child Custody Determined in Texas?
The overarching principle for establishing child custody in Texas is “the best interests of the child.”
When determining what constitutes “the best interests of the child,” the courts in Texas will consider a wide range of factors, including:
- Each parent’s involvement in the child’s life during the course of the marriage
- The extent to which the parents have demonstrated a willingness to cooperate with each other for the benefit of the child. This typically includes a consideration of specific instances where a parent has disparaged or badmouthed the other parent in front of the children.
- The relative stability of each parent’s home environment—The court will assess the extent to which each parent can provide a consistent and safe place for the child to live and thrive.
- Any history of substance abuse, domestic violence or criminal activity by either parent
- The need for continuity in the child’s life—The court will try to encourage arrangements that result in the least amount of interference or irregularity in the child’s daily life
- The child’s wishes—Typically, if the child is 12 or older, he or she may be interviewed by the court to determine where he or she would like to spend most of the time
How Long Does It Take to Resolve a Child Custody Dispute in Texas?
When parents work cooperatively, a custody agreement can be completed and signed by the court within a couple months. However, if either parent contests custody or visitation, the process can take months or even years to resolve.
What Is a Suit Affecting a Parent-Child Relationship (SAPCR)?
In Texas, either parent may file a suit affecting a parent-child relationship, or SAPCR, to challenge or determine any rights related to a minor child of the marriage. An SAPCR is a specific legal proceeding that focuses on issues related to custody, visitation, child support, medical and dental costs.
What Are Some of the Common Child Custody Issues in Fort Worth?
Most child custody controversies involve one of the following issues:
- How custody and visitation will be set forth in the divorce decree
- What happens when a custodial parent wrongfully denies access or visitation—the enforcement of a standard possession order
- The rights of either parent to travel with a minor child, particularly out of state or out of the country
- Requests for modification of a child custody order when circumstances change
Is There a Specific Process for Modifying a Texas Child Custody Order?
Yes. Though the parties can typically agree to make occasional changes in visitation and/or custody, any long-term or permanent changes need the approval of the court. You must file a request for modification, which will be reviewed by the judge. The judge may simply sign the order or may hold a hearing to determine what is in the best interests of the child.
Why Choose the Fort Worth Child Custody Attorneys at Bailey & Galyen?
At Bailey & Galyen, we have successfully worked with parents to resolve custody disputes in the Fort Worth area for more over 40 years. We’ve seen just about every type of custody dispute imaginable and know how to help parents take the right steps to protect themselves and the best interests of their children.
Got a Question? Schedule a Free Initial Consultation with Our Fort Worth Child Custody Attorneys
At the law offices of Bailey and Galyen, with offices throughout Texas, we work hard to ensure your total satisfaction with our representation. We will take your call 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Evening and weekend consultations may be arranged upon request. We will also travel to meet with you, if necessary.