Child custody is a term family law courts use when determining which parent, relative, or other adult will have responsibility for a minor child under 18 years of age.
While divorce is the primary event in which child custody issues arise, a variety of other life situations frequently require the assistance of an attorney as well. Many times these events require going to court to make sure a parents or grandparents rights are protected. In the event that parents decide to separate, but not file for divorce, a parenting plan, including custody and a visitation schedule is also necessary.
Other examples of circumstances which call for conservatorship or custody issues include the death of both parents before a child reaches 18 years of age, when one or both parents have known problems with alcohol, drugs or child abuse, when a child is neglected, or if a child has only one parent who is unable to properly care for a child due to serious health or other problems. All of these situations will likely require the assistance of an attorney in order to assist the client in what can sometimes be a very complicated process.
In Texas there are two forms of child custody, which the state’s statutes refer to as Conservatorship and Joint Managing Conservatorship.
Conservatorship – One parent, a relative or guardian is given sole custody of the child and as the primary caretaker decides where the child goes to school and attends religious services, and is responsible for the child’s medical care and social activities, such as dance or musical instrument lessons, summer camp, sports and after school activities. When the child has a non-custodial parent, a visitation schedule is arranged for that parent.
Joint Managing Conservatorship – When the court grants joint custody, also called joint managing conservatorship, both parents or a combination of a parent and other relative or guardian equally share in the decisions and upbringing of the children. The court is most likely to grant joint custody, when the parents or others given joint managing conservatorship live close enough to one another that the child is able to spend considerable time with both parties.
However, even when joint conservatorship is ordered, the majority of the time the court will still designate a primary caretaker with whom the children will live. The noncustodial parent in these cases is likely to have much more expansive visitation and parental rights when compared to cases not involving joint custody.
The form of child custody granted is decided on the basis of what the court determines is in the best interest of the child. When the court structures a child custody plan, the safety, welfare and health of the child are the primary concerns. Factors the court considers are a child’s needs of stability and continuity, emotional bonds and the child’s preference, as well as history of child or spousal abuse, a parent’s use of controlled substances or history of criminal convictions
If you and your spouse have children and subsequently decide to divorce, one of your most important tasks is establishing a parenting plan or parenting agreement, concerning child custody and a visitation schedule for the non-custodial parent. In the event you are not able to arrive at a workable plan with your spouse, the court can make a decision on what is in the best interests of the children. Of inestimable value as you navigate through the court system, will be your choice of a trusted family law attorney who will be instrumental in helping you through a divorce or any child custody proceeding.
When child custody is one of the issues in your divorce litigation, or if you have a child custody dispute later and need post-divorce modification or enforcement of previous custody orders, we will assist you with these critical issues.
Whether the determination of child custody is part of your divorce or due to other circumstances, the issue is emotionally charged and often highly contested. Mr. Kelley will do his utmost to achieve the most satisfactory child custody arrangement for you and your children with the least amount of stress possible.
If you have questions about child custody or need legal advice on a child custody problem in Texas, please call our law firm at 817-922-0555 to arrange a consultation with an experienced Fort Worth child custody lawyer.