San Antonio Custody Lawyers
Helping You Modify Your Trial Orders
After a divorce or separation, one highly contentious issue for the couple to decide on is custody and visitation of their child or children. Custody can be divided in many ways, and each case is unique, which means it's important to be properly represented by a custody lawyers in San Antonio.
Types of Child Custody
Under Texas law, there are two types of child custody or conservatorship that a judge can award to either parent - Joint and Sole Managing Conservatorship.
- Joint Managing Conservatorship - Both parents have custody rights over the child and share responsibility.
- Sole Managing Conservatorship - One parent is granted full custody rights and responsibility for making decisions about the child's upbringing.
Full Custody in Texas
People often say that they want to get “full” custody when settling their divorce. Technically, in Texas, if you look at all of the laws regarding custody and visitation, the word “full” is never used. However, Texas does view parental rights in two aspects:
- What decision-making rights are you going to have over your child?
- When are you going to have possession of your child?
With the first, we are talking about a variety of decisions such as taking your child to the doctor, what tutoring program they should attend, or whether they should be able to marry before they turn 18. One of the most important decisions is deciding where your child lives. If you are granted the right to decide where your child lives, then that typically (but not always) coincides with you having more physical possession of your child out of the 365 days in the year. Typically, if you decide where your child lives, the other parent is the “non-custodial” parent and they have visitation. That leads to the second aspect.
With the second aspect of parenting, we are simply talking about when you and your ex are going to have visitation with your child. There are an infinite number of ways to set up visitation. Every case is unique, so make sure you meet with the custody lawyers in San Antonio at our firm to discuss all of your options.
How Child Custody is Determined in Texas?
In determining legal custody of their children, both parents can try to work together to divide up conservatorship without the involvement of the courts. However, if they are unable to agree, a judge will need to make a custody ruling.
Texas courts often want both parents involved in the life of the child, so they will try to award some type of joint conservatorship when possible, even if one parent has more rights than the other. In cases where it seems detrimental or not in the best interest of the child to have joint conservatorship, they will give sole custody to one parent and the other parent may receive visitation rights.
The judge may also choose to award sole conservatorship in cases where the other parent has been absent, has a history of drug use, has been violent, or for other reasons that may not seem in the best interest of the child.
The court takes several factors into consideration when deciding child custody:
- The parental ability of both parties
- The current and future needs of the child
- The child's desire
- Potential dangers to the child
- Available programs to help the parents
- The stability of both parties
- Plans each parent has for the child
Visitation rights, referred to as possession and access, could be given in cases where a parent does not receive conservatorship but the court still believes the parent should be allowed specified visits with the child. A schedule, or standard possession order, that details these visitations can be drafted and both parents can work to create this together or else the court will step in and make the schedule.
What is an Unfit Parent in Texas?
Texas law presumes that joint managing conservatorship is the best route for a child after a divorce. However, if the court finds that one of the parents is deemed "unfit", then the court must award custody to the other parent or guardian. So what exactly would qualify a parent to be unfit? Here are a few circumstances:
- The parent had a history of alcohol or substance abuse problems
- The parent has an abusive history towards the child
- The parent has shown an unwillingness to be part of the child's long-term future
- The parent has an unsafe home or living environment
Texas Standard Visitation for Non-Custodial Parent
If you have been denied custody, there are better ways to prepare yourself for asking a family court for visitation of your children, it helps to understand Texas's visitation rights and laws. You can also make your case for visitation better by retaining an experienced visitation lawyer to represent you in court.
Texas family courts utilize several visitation orders to facilitate contact between children and non-custodial parents. The most common orders that family court judges use are:
- Order for a child under three
Visitation orders are actually called possession orders in Texas. A standard possession order, the most common rendered by family courts, involves both the custodial and non-custodial parents near equal time with their children. If both parents live within 100 miles of each other, the non-custodial parent is granted visitation for:
- The first, third and fifth weeks of every month
- Thursday evenings during the school year
- Alternating holidays
- A period extending 30 days during the summer
If the parents live more than 100 miles from each other, the non-custodial parent gets a visitation order that is reduced to one weekend a month, with no midweek visits, more than 42 days in the summer, and every spring break.
If the standard visitation order does not work for the family or puts the children's safety at risk, the order can be modified. The judge may decide that the visitation with the non-custodial parent needs to be supervised by a family member or neutral third party.
Likewise, parents of children under the age of three can use standard visitation orders. However, they can also ask for a possession order for a child under three if the child meets certain legal criteria. For example, the order may need to be modified to favor the mother having most of the time with him or her if the child is breastfed and not yet weaned.
Grandparent Visitation Orders in Texas
Texas law does not mandate that grandparents be given any rights to visitation with their grandchildren. However, while they may not automatically be given this right under the family laws in the state, grandparents can still go to court and ask to be given visitation with their minor grandchildren. They may be granted visitation if:
- The children's parents are divorced
- The custodial parent abused or neglected the children
- The custodial parent is incarcerated, not competent or deceased
- The child has lived with the grandparents for at least six months
Grandparents cannot ask for visitation rights if the child in question has been adopted by someone other than his or her step-parent. Get help from our San Antonio, Texas grandparents rights lawyers today!
Quality Representation for Your Custody Case in TX
Whether you are considering going through a divorce or have ended your relationship with the parent of your child, determining custody rights can be difficult and emotional. Having a detailed and enforceable agreement that specifies child custody rights is important. In the event that you and the other parent do not see eye to eye, a legal plan can be a protection and can reduce conflict by clearly stating expectations.
Custody situations can be difficult, complex, and tense. Our qualified San Antonio child custody lawyers can reduce stress and can provide knowledgeable guidance on the next steps to take.