Breaking up with, separating from or divorcing a partner is difficult enough. When you factor children into the equation, it becomes even harder.
You want what’s best for your child, and unfortunately, you and your partner can’t seem to agree on what exactly that is. To you, it means a stable home, a warm, loving environment and a parent who is always going to be there for them. You just don’t believe that your partner can provide all of that at the moment, if ever, and you need to make sure your child is going to be protected no matter what.
That’s why you want to file for legal custody of your child in a Texas court. You know that your child will be better off and have more of a chance in succeeding in life if they live with you. You’re willing to make the sacrifice to raise your child on your own and ensure they have the emotional, mental, physical and financial support they need.
Let’s take a look at the process for filing for child custody in Texas, as well as any legalities you should be aware of going forward.
Figuring Out the Best Interests of the Child
If you cannot come to an agreement with your former partner on who gets custody, then the family court in Texas will step in to determine who gets custody based on the best interests of the child. Which parent will be able to provide the best life possible for the child? Will one be able to handle it on their own, or do both parents need to be involved? Joint managing conservatorship is the presumption in a Texas court, but if one parent is not fit to provide for the child, then full custody will be granted to the other parent.
The factors that are weighed when it comes to the best interests of the child include:
- The child’s health and safety. Where is the child going to be physically, emotionally and mentally healthy, as well as safe from the dangers of the world?
- The kind of relationship the child has with each parent. Does the child have a negative relationship with one parent?
- Whether or not there’s been abuse. Has one parent hit the other? Has one parent verbally or physically abused the child?
- Present fitness and recent past conduct. Does a parent have addiction issues? Has a parent made poor decisions regarding the child
In Texas, a child who is 12 or older has the right to tell the court which parent they would prefer to live with. This will be weighed into the court’s decision, but will not be the ultimate deciding factor.
A judge may order for a counselor, licensed social worker or psychiatrist to partake in a custody evaluation. This person will observe you and the other parent, conduct interviews with you both as well as the child if they are over 4 years old and look at any records relevant to the case (school, criminal and medical records, for instance). This process can cost hundreds to thousands of dollars and take several months depending on the complexity of the case. Parents will typically split the costs, but one parent may be ordered to pay for the whole evaluation.
The report that the evaluator puts together will go over parents’ strengths and weaknesses. You and the other parent may reach an agreement after seeing this evaluation or decide to go to trial and get a judge’s ruling. When going through an evaluation, make sure that you don’t try to train your child to say certain things or talk badly about the other parent. Instead, it’s wise to always present your best self, ask questions and be honest about your circumstances.
Collecting Evidence for Your Case
If you want full custody, you’ll need evidence that the other parent is not fit to raise the child. You should begin collecting medical, criminal and employment records and enlist the help of expert witnesses, such as a child psychologist, to help your case. Make sure that the evidence you’re collecting for yourself proves that you are healthy, stable and can provide the kind of care that your child needs.
Finding a Lawyer to Help
Child custody cases can be complicated and emotionally draining. Finding out how to file the forms, being subjected to an evaluation and having to go to court are time-consuming and taxing.
Instead of experiencing this process alone, turn to a trusted and experienced child custody attorney who can help. With their expertise, you will get the best outcome possible for both you and your child.
The experienced child custody attorneys at Boudreaux Hunter & Associates, LLC are available to consult with you if you are considering filing for child custody, or are already in the process of filing for child custody in Texas. We can provide valuable insight to the complex nature of these cases. You can learn more about our child custody representation here, or contact our office now to schedule a confidential consultation.