Custody Disputes

In a divorce or separation who gets custody of the children and its related issues are usually the most contentious and heart wrenching decisions made. That is why our primary goal in helping you through your divorce or separation is looking out for your children’s best interest. We care about children and are truly interested in doing what’s best for them. In fact, we encourage all of our clients to abide by “The Children’s Bill of Rights”, which is a list of 30 or so recommendations you should keep in mind when helping your kids through this difficult time.

Luckily, Texas is one of the best states to be in when you’re dealing with custody disputes. The laws in this state are gender neutral and centered upon the “children’s best interest” standard, which means judges are bound to make decisions that put children first.

Rights

The default standard in Texas for custody is “Joint Managing Conservatorship” (JMC). What does this mean? Basically, as Joint Managing Conservators, both parents have basic equal rights and duties regarding their children. Both parents, by default, have the right of access to their kids’ medical, educational, psychological, and legal information, the right to attend school activities, and the right to consent to medical treatment in an emergency. Both parents, by default, have the duty to protect, provide for, care for, and reasonably discipline their children when they are in their possession. On the other hand the right to consent to invasive medical treatment, to psychiatric or psychological care, as well as the right to represent one’s child in legal action or to make important decisions concerning the child’s education, are treated differently. One parent may have the exclusive right to do any of these things. Or both parents may have the right to do so, subject to the agreement of the other parent. Finally, both parents may have the independent right to act after reasonable consultation (not permission) with the other parent.

Based on the facts of the case, a judge will determine what is most appropriate, or, you and your spouse can agree on any allotment of these rights. The other arrangement for custody in Texas is where one parent, the Sole Managing Conservator, has the exclusive right to do all of the above. The other parent, the Possessory Conservator, has basic rights of access and basic duties to care for their child, but they do not have the right to make any major decisions. The Sole Managing Conservator/Possessory Conservator arrangement is the standard in cases where one parent has committed domestic violence or in other serious cases of neglect, abuse, or separation.

Residence

One parent will also have the exclusive right to designate the child’s primary residence, and is often called the “residential parent.” This means the child will live most of the time with that parent. Generally, this right is given to the parent who has been the child’s primary caretaker. Most of the time, a Court will order that the child’s residence be restricted to the current county and surrounding counties – so as to encourage the development and maintenance of a healthy relationship between the child and both parents.

Child Support

The other parent will have the duty to provide child support, unless both parents agree otherwise. The Texas Family Code sets forth guidelines for the calculation of child support, which is a percentage of the parent’s monthly net income, starting at 20 percent for one child. If the obligor parent has the duty to support other children from another relationship, this percentage will be reduced accordingly. The guidelines apply in all but exceptional cases.

Similarly, one parent will also be obligated to provide health insurance coverage for the child. If the residential parent has health insurance on the child, the other parent will generally be required to reimburse him or her for the actual cost of maintaining the insurance. Parents will be equally responsible for most uninsured medical expenses (like co-pays).

Visitation

Under the Texas Family Code, the non-residential parent will almost always have visitation with their child pursuant to the Standard Possession Order (except in unusual cases). This is the “default.” This means that the non-residential parent is entitled to possession of the child every Thursday evening from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m., during the 1st, 3rd, and 5th weekends of every month beginning on Friday and ending on Sunday, a period of at least 30 consecutive days in the summer, and alternating holidays and spring breaks. A parent could also request extended standard visitation, which means visits would begin when the child is released from school and end when the child goes back to school.

Sometimes, there is a need for visitation to be supervised. Examples of when a Court might order or a party might request supervised visitation include cases involving domestic violence, neglect, or drug/alcohol abuse by the parent. If supervision is ordered it will probably be supervised by a family friend, relative, counselor, therapist, or even a service such as Kids Exchange.

If the non-residential parent lives far away, a court order will probably contain Long-Distance Travel provisions. Such provisions set guidelines for scheduling flights for children and delegate responsibility for costs associated with travel.

If you are concerned about the custody of your child, it’s important that you know and understand your legal rights. Our team of family law attorneys has the experience and expertise to help you avoid all the legal obstacles that may stand in your way. If you are or may soon be dealing with a child custody dispute please call our firm so we can help.

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512-218-9292

3 Convenient Texas Locations to Serve You

Round Rock

ROUND ROCK

Address: 904 East Main Street
Round Rock, Texas 78664
Tel: (512) 218-9292
Fax: (512) 218-9235
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By Appointment Only Lakeway

Address: 2802 Flintrock Trace #285
Austin, TX 78738
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Fax: (512) 218-9235
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By Appointment Only Downtown Austin

DOWNTOWN AUSTIN

Address: Frost Bank Tower
401 Congress Ave. Ste. 1540
Austin, Texas 78701
Tel: (512) 218-9292
Fax: (512) 218-9235
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