Few things are more stressful than battling over your right to spend time with your own children. With all the emotions and the high stakes involved, it’s no wonder that negotiations for child custody (called conservatorship in Texas) can so frequently turn ugly. If you are going through a divorce or another big life transition that has you facing a child custody hearing in Texas, here are five things you can do to prepare.
- Know your local child custody and visitation laws. The Texas Family Code outlines a Standard Possession Order for child visitation, which typically works out to a 44/ 56 split, with the primary custodial parent spending the majority of the time with the child or children. Most judges will default to the Standard Possession Order but there are some cases in which parents wish to divide time more evenly or create a visitation schedule that deviates from the default.
- Hire an attorney. Before your court appearance, work with an experienced family law attorney who can help you build your case, find any weaknesses in your arguments, and help you understand what to expect at the hearing. Your attorney can also advise you about how to conduct yourself in court in order to make the best impression.
- Get your documents and finances in order. A judge will rule on child custody based on the best interest of the child. During your court appearances, you need to be ready to answer the judges’ questions about the details of your daily schedule and your resources to care for your child. Have documents on hand to show the status of your income, employment, relationship with your children, and ability to take care of them. Talk to your attorney about what documents you will need in court.
- Work with your co-parent if possible. To the extent possible, working out a co-parenting schedule or certain agreements ahead of time can save you time in court and possibly additional legal fees and resources. If you and your co-parent can cooperate, your child custody hearing will proceed quicker and more smoothly.
- Seek your child’s best interest. While you likely want to protect your child from the messy parts of a child custody case, it is also important that they be informed about what is happening and that you and your attorney are protecting their best interests during the case. When determining conservatorship in Texas, a judge will consider the child’s wishes and what will be safest and most healthy for them.
At Sandoval Law Firm we understand the stress of dealing with divorce, child custody and domestic violence. Our firm consists of founding attorney Raul Sandoval Jr. and a dedicated support staff. Mr. Sandoval earned his law degree from Texas Tech University School of Law. Since that time, he has been practicing family law in the Austin area, as well as teaching seminars, classes and other forms of professional development.