When you got married or started your relationship with your partner, you had a dream to build a family together. And you did just that. Now, you have one, two, or maybe three or more wonderful children.
While you love your children dearly, and would do anything for them, your relationship isn’t going well anymore, and you think it’s time to get a divorce or separate.
Even though you’re also going through a rough patch, your number one concern at this time is your kids. How are they going to react to the news that you and your co-parent aren’t together anymore? How can you keep your kids as happy and healthy as possible during this hard period they’re about to experience? How can you ensure that your issues with your partner don’t get in the way of protecting your children?
All of these questions have an answer: You can come up with a child custody agreement. With this agreement, you and your partner can use it to document exactly how you’re going to take care of the children after your relationship ends.
The first step is to look into child custody in Texas, how it works and how to find a Houston child custody attorney who will help you navigate this emotional time and complicated process.
In Texas, child custody is technically called Joint Managing Conservatorship (JMC) or Sole Managing Conservatorship (SMC).
Joint Managing Conservatorship – A JMC is applicable when both parents are awarded child custody. It’s the most common form of child custody in Texas. A judge will decide what rights and duties each parent, as well as both parents, will have as conservators. For example, maybe one parent is responsible for making educational decisions, while they both need to make major medical decisions.
The judge will decide who does what based upon what is in the best interests of the child. Factors may include:
Generally, conservators are involved in a number of matters pertaining to a child’s life. They can talk to a physician, dentist or psychologist about the child, gain access to the child’s records, including medical, psychological, educational and dental and speak to school staff regarding how the child is doing at school socially and in the classroom with their grades. They also have the right to give their permission for a child to undergo medical, surgical or dental treatment in an emergency, especially when there is an immediate danger when it comes to a child’s health and safety.
Even when there is a JMC, the parents may not be given equal time with the child. Maybe one parent gets the child every other weekend, for example. The judge will come up with a standard possession order, or an SPO, that spells out the visitation schedule.
Sole Managing Conservatorship – An SMC gives one parent all the legal rights and duties to make crucial decisions for a child regarding things like their medical care and education.
An SMC would come into play if only one parent wants custody of the child or the other parent is unfit to share custody. Perhaps the other parent has a history of abuse, addiction to drugs or alcohol, has had trouble with the law or was not present in the child’s life.
The court would take both sides into consideration and assess the overall parenting skills of each parent before making a decision.
The name for visitation under Texas law is “possession and access to a child.” A parent can apply for possession and access, and a judge will decide whether or not they will receive it depending upon what’s in the best interest of the child.
When the parent has possession and access to their child, they are obligated to provide proper treatment, including a roof over the child’s head, food, clothing and medical and dental care (that doesn’t involve some sort of invasive procedure). They can consent to the child having a medical or dental procedure as long as it’s not invasive, and they can oversee a child’s moral and religious education. The parent is also responsible for protecting the child, disciplining them reasonably and caring for them.
If visitation rights are requested, the judge will come up with a visitation schedule, which is also known as a standard possession order. It’s only for children three-years-old and up. If children are younger than three-years-old, the judge will create a visitation schedule they believe is fair.
Additional Child Custody Information – The parent who wishes to change the child custody arrangement needs to go to the court that came up with the initial agreement and request a modification. For example, maybe they got a demanding new job and won’t be able to spend as much time with their child, so they need to give more days up to the other parent. Or, maybe the other parent has become addicted to alcohol and is unfit to parent, so they wish to gain an SMC.
The child can never decide possession and access. Only when they turn 12 can they decide whom they want to live with. However, the court may weigh the child’s opinion when deciding upon custody.
If one parent has custody, or spends more time with the child, the court may order the other parent to pay child support. Child support is calculated by taking a percentage of the monthly net resources that the obligor pays to obligee. Monthly net resouorces includes gross salary, money made from investments and retirement as well as pensions and unemployment they may receive.
If you and your co-parent are no longer together or contemplating getting separated, divorced or otherwise ending your relationship, then you will need to speak to an experienced Houston child custody attorney as soon as possible.
You’ll have to find someone who knows the ins and outs of the laws and can help you and your co-parent come to an agreement that works for both of you. It’s also important to work with an attorney who will be empathetic to your situation and try to solve any issues in a way that doesn’t take an emotional, financial, or mental toll on you, since this is already an incredibly challenging situation.
Thankfully, the child custody attorneys at Boudreaux Hunter & Associates, LLC are here to help you. Contact us today to schedule your consultation and determine if we’re the right fit when it comes to your child custody case in Houston, Texas. We’re standing by and ready to answer all your questions, as well as address your concerns, in this difficult time.
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