Getting Custody: A Step-By-Step Guide

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After divorcing or separating from their significant other, parents will have to decide how they want to manage custody of their children, also known in Texas as conservatorship and possession. There are several options for obtaining custody in Texas.

Options for obtaining custody include:

  • Parents that are able to come together to make their own decision can ask the judge to legally enforce it as long as it is in your children’s best interests.

  • Parents that have issues but are willing to work through them can opt to go through mediation.

  • Parents that need a third party to help them decide on custody arrangements can seek a private judge or arbitration.

  • Parents that cannot make a decision at all will need to go through litigation where a judge will step in to decide on custody issues for them.

Regardless of which option you decide on for obtaining custody, you will have to formally open up a child custody case with the court. To file for custody, there is a specific process you must follow. Below our San Antonio child custody lawyers explain the steps for filing for custody in Texas.

Complete Custody Paperwork

Either you or your children’s other parent will need to open a case. This can be done through a suit affecting the parent-child relationship or a divorce case, which automatically includes the first option if you have minor children from the marriage.

If you are concerned about you and your children’s safety when you open your case, you can file a motion for a temporary restraining order. Additionally, at this time you can file for temporary custody orders to decide how your children will be cared for during the process.

Depending on the case, a paternity suit may be necessary to ensure

In divorce cases with minor children involved, the court will issue orders regarding conservatorship, possession, and support of the children during divorce proceedings. For unmarried parents, they will file a suit affecting the parent-child relationship. This type of case can also be used for child visitation for a non-parent.

The following forms need to be completed:

  • Original Petition for Divorce or Petition in Suit Affecting the Parent-Child Relationship (The form will depend on which type of case you are seeking)

  • Civil Case Information Sheet

  • Out-of-State Party Declaration (if you or the respondent lives outside of Texas)

  • Statement of Inability to Afford Payment of Court Costs (if you cannot pay the filing fee)

Additionally, depending on the circumstances of your case, a paternity suit or application for a protective order may be required. This will be filed under the same case number.

File Paperwork with County Clerk

Once your forms are completed, you will need to file them with your district clerk’s office or online through Texas’s eFileTexas website. For in-person visits, you not only have a copy of the paperwork for yourself, but you should bring additional copies to provide to the respondent, the court, and the attorney general’s office if you are filing through them.

After checking that everything is in order, the district clerk will issue a citation sheet for informing the respondents of the case if you know there will be issues getting them to sign the court-ordered forms. At this point, you should ask if there are any special procedures or rules that you need to follow for your case.

Once all of this is done, the clerk will stamp your documents with the date, as well as write your court number and case number on the first page of the petition. They will then keep the originals and return your copies to you.

Notify the Attorney General’s Office

For children receiving benefits from Medicaid, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), or a food stamp program, it may be required to involve the attorney general’s office to help establish child support. In these instances, you will need to submit a stamped copy of your paperwork to their office.

Inform Respondents

Both parents must be informed of the details of the case as well as what rights they have. To do this, you can serve the respondent with the papers, or if you are on good terms with them, you can have them fill out a form stating that they are aware of the custody proceedings.

If serving papers, you will need to ask law enforcement or a private server to deliver the custody paperwork. They will then deliver the papers to your respondent in person and send the Return of Service form to either you or the court. If you are sent back the papers, you will then need to file them with the court.

If you have issues with serving your respondent, our San Antonio child custody attorneys are available to assist you with other methods of obtaining the response papers.

Wait for Respondents Answer

After completing the above steps, the initial filing process is over if you are the petitioner. At this point, you will have to wait and see if your respondent submits a response.

In cases where the papers were served, there are time constraints for responding to make sure the process is not unnecessarily delayed. The respondent must file by the Monday following the 20th calendar day after they were served.

If they don’t respond, you can continue the case without their input which means it is a “default divorce or default suit affecting the parent-child relationship. In cases where papers were not served, you will need to wait until they file the forms you gave them, which has no deadline. Once they respond or file, the next step in the process will be to go mediation or a hearing.

If you are in need of assistance with obtaining child custody, The Law Office of Rebecca J. Carrillo is here to guide you through the process. Call our San Antonio child custody attorneys at (210) 405-6623 to set up a consultation today.

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