One of the hardest and most stressful parts of going through a divorce is working out a child custody arrangement. This agreement will impact your relationship with your children, and their future—here are some suggestions for how to navigate the process.
How does Texas Handle Child Custody?
Texas courts issue several different kinds of custody orders. Sole custody is sometimes awarded to one parent, meaning that they look after the child and have the exclusive right to decide on their upbringing. However, Texas courts tend to award Joint custody: while the child mostly resides with one parent, both parents share in decision-making about their upbringing. Finally, shared custody involves the child living with each parent for at least 35% of the year, with both parents having legal custody rights.
Which of these custody types the court decides upon is based partially on the child’s wishes, future emotional, physical and support needs, the stability and parenting abilities of each home, and multiple other factors. It’s a very complex process, and what the court decides is partially influenced by how you conduct yourself.
The Custody Process
Assuming you and your partner didn’t work out a child custody arrangement in advance, the court will grant a hearing to rule on one. Custody hearings are a proceeding used to issue temporary orders regarding visitation and other matters. Custody trials are where you and the other parent present your arguments and evidence to the judge for a final ruling. The judge will issue a decision and review your rights and duties as a parent.
Before your court appearance, work with an experienced family law attorney who can take you through the process. Make sure to document any and all interactions with your children and discussions/agreements with your spouse, whether in-person, over the phone, or electronic. This will be evidence in the hearing.
During your court appearances, you need to be ready to answer the judges’ questions about the details of your daily schedule and your ability and resources to care for your child or children. Have documents on hand to show the status of your income and employment. Be succinct and speak rationally when arguing for custody.
Follow Court Orders
This can’t be emphasized enough: do what the court tells you. If the court asks that you attend counselling or take a parenting class, do it. Show up on time to meetings. Be prompt, professional, and polite. Don’t consistently show up late, or continually reschedule meetings or visitation. Your conduct will be viewed as a sign of your reliability: if the court doesn’t think you’re reliable, they’re less likely to grant custody or visitation rights.
Put The Children First
Child custody is for your children’s welfare, not yours. It’s wise to keep them out of proceedings as much as possible: during a stressful time, letting kids be kids—and not having them feel caught in the middle between you and your spouse—will help them adjust to this new way of life.
Whatever type of custody or visitation you’re awarded, the most important thing you can do is meet your commitments. Be on time for scheduled visits, events, and to drop kids off at daycare or school. The most valuable gift you can give children during a divorce is your attention and time.
Remember: for more help navigating custody arrangements, you can always reach out to Sandoval Family Law for assistance.