When going through a divorce or separation, one of the most challenging aspects is determining child custody arrangements. The process can be emotionally taxing, but understanding the steps involved and what to expect can help alleviate some of the stress. At Sandoval Family Law, we aim to guide you through this process with clarity and support.

  1. Initial Consultation with a Family Law Attorney
    The first step in the child custody process is often to consult with a family law attorney. During this initial meeting, you’ll discuss your situation, your concerns, and your goals regarding custody. Your attorney will explain the different types of custody and how they can apply to your case.
  2. Filing a Petition for Custody
    Texas law usually presumes that two parents who are divorcing should be “joint managing conservators.” This means that they would share decision-making responsibilities about a child. It does not necessarily mean that their time would be evenly split between parents. Although you and your co-parent may agree on custody, visitation, and child support, this agreement is not legally enforceable unless it is approved by a judge who deems the agreement is in the child’s best interest. In most child custody cases in Texas, one parent files a SAPCR (Suit Affecting the Parent-Child Relationship), and a judge makes custody, visitation, child support, medical support, and dental support orders. Your attorney will help you prepare and file this petition.
  3. Serving the Other Parent
    Once the SAPCR petition is filed, the other parent must be formally served with thepapers. This step ensures that they are aware of the legal action and have the opportunity to respond. Serving the papers must be done in accordance with state laws, and your attorney can assist in this process.
  4. Response from the Other Parent
    After being served, the other parent has a specific amount of time to respond to the petition. Their response will indicate whether they agree with your proposed custody arrangement or if they wish to contest it. If they contest, they will typically propose an alternative arrangement.
  5. Temporary Custody Orders
    While the case is pending, you may need temporary custody orders to establish how parenting time and responsibilities will be divided until a final decision is made. These orders can be critical in maintaining stability for your child during the legal process. The court may issue temporary orders based on the best interests of the child after a hearing.
  6. Court Hearings
    If the case goes to court, both parents will present their arguments and evidence to a judge. The judge will consider various factors, including each parent’s living situation, relationship with the child, and ability to provide for the child’s needs. The child’s best interests are the primary consideration in making a custody determination.
  7. Final Custody Order
    After reviewing all the evidence and arguments, the judge will issue a final custody order. This order outlines the specific custody arrangement, including physical and legal custody, visitation schedules, and any other relevant details. Both parents are legally obligated to follow this order.
  8. Post-Judgment Modifications
    Circumstances can change, and the initial custody arrangement may no longer be suitable. If this happens, either parent can request a modification of the custody order. The requesting parent must demonstrate a significant change in circumstances that warrants a new custody arrangement.
  9. Conclusion

    The child custody process can be complex and emotionally charged, but understanding the steps involved can help you navigate it more effectively. At Sandoval Family Law, we are committed to supporting you through every phase of this process, ensuring that your child’s best interests are always the top priority. If you need assistance with a child custody case, please contact our office to schedule a consultation.

    By approaching the process with knowledge and a clear strategy, you can work towards a custody arrangement that supports the well-being of your child and provides stability for your family.