The divorce process is almost always a difficult one, often more so when having to negotiate child custody arrangements. While it is best if the divorcing couple can agree on sharing custody or on the noncustodial parent having generous visitation, this is not always possible. The divisive issues that precipitated the divorce typically permeate divorce discussions as well. That’s why it’s essential to have a strong but sensitive family law attorney in your corner. In West Texas, contact Navarrete & Schwartz, P.C. to find one. 

Our attorneys have a history of successful interventions and agile negotiations. If litigation becomes necessary, we are well-prepared to fight for your rights and the rights of your child.

The Two Types of Child Custody 

There are two types of child custody throughout the U.S.  — physical custody and legal custody. 

Physical custody pertains to where the child lives most of the time. In joint physical custody, the child lives with each parent some of the time, although the time slots are not always perfectly even. If one parent has sole physical custody, the other (except in cases in which one parent is deemed unfit) has fulsome visitation rights.

Legal custody involves decision-making authority which is nearly always given to both parents so they can share in the child’s upbringing. Both parents usually have an equal say on issues like healthcare, education, and religious matters.

In Texas, custody is legally known as “conservatorship,” so when both parents share custody, it is known as Joint Managing Conservatorship (JMC) and when only one parent is in charge, it is known as Sole Managing Conservatorship (SMC). JMC and SMC in Texas integrate the components of residence and decision-making.

How Child Custody is Determined by the Court

Although the court almost always accepts the custody arrangements parents have arrived at by themselves when parents can’t agree on custody, the court steps in to decide for them. The court is guided by what it perceives to be in the best interests of the child by considering the following factors:

  • Emotional and physical needs of the child
  • The child’s existing relationship with each parent
  • Potential danger to the child from one parent’s lifestyle, habits, or tendencies
  • Parenting abilities of each parent
  • Each parent’s income and financial resources
  • Each parent’s mental and physical health
  • Child’s preference if they are age 12 or older.
  • Either parent’s record of domestic, child, or substance abuse

Our family law attorneys have extensive experience and in-depth insight into how the court perceives evidence and we know how to present your view of what is best for your child in a favorable light for the court to consider.

Parental Responsibilities According to Texas Law

All Texas parents, married or unmarried, legally owe their children not only financial support, but a duty of care, control, protection, and reasonable discipline. This means that they are required to provide their children with clothing, food, shelter, and medical and dental care. They are also obligated to provide their children with emotional support and to fulfill their children’s educational and recreational needs.

Information Sharing Is Required No Matter Who Has Custody

Texas law recognizes that parents cannot fulfill their parental responsibilities unless they are kept informed about their child’s health, educational progress, and general well-being. For 

this reason, open communication between divorced parents is imperative. Parents are required to inform one another about significant events or changes relative to their child’s physical and emotional health, academic performance and teacher conferences, and sporting and other extracurricular events. 

Direct Contact Between Noncustodial Parent and the Child

If there is no evidence to the contrary, the court assumes that it is beneficial for the child to maintain a strong bond with both parents. When one parent has sole custody, the noncustodial parent is typically permitted visitation according to a predetermined schedule known as the Standard Possession Order (SPO). The SPO defines the periods, for example, as every first, third, and fifth weekend and specific named holidays.

Since the SPO may not work for all families, visitation schedules can be customized to fit:

  • The child’s age and school schedule
  • Child’s activities (e.g. sports activities, art/music lessons, therapy sessions, playdates) 
  • Parents’ work schedules and social calendars
  • Medical and dental appointments of parents and child

Both parents also have the right to keep in contact with their child through phone calls, text messages, and emails when they are not together, though limits must be agreed upon to keep such connections from becoming intrusive. Having a reasonable attorney assisting in negotiations can be invaluable when it comes to encouraging you and your ex-spouse to be flexible regarding scheduled visits and necessary impromptu contacts.

Modifying Child Custody Arrangements

No matter how well-thought-out custody arrangements are, they will sometimes have to be altered as circumstances change and unexpected events occur. Our lawyers are well-equipped to help you modify child custody arrangements if it becomes necessary due to:

  • One parent’s relocation or change in housing (e.g. eviction, foreclosure)
  • Child’s changing needs
  • One parent’s refusal to adhere to the existing custody agreement
  • Evidence of one parent’s inability to adequately care for the child due to

mental health issues, substance abuse, criminal activity

  • One parent’s change of employment, income, or work schedule
  • Altered family structure (remarriage, birth of a half-sibling)
  • Child’s stated preference if they have reached the age of 12
  • Death in the family 

Why Having the Right Family Law Attorney Matters 

Working out child custody arrangements may be difficult and emotionally draining. Having an attorney who knows the ropes can make things a whole lot easier. Our lawyers are:

  • Well-schooled in Texas child custody laws
  • Know their way around a courtroom and are familiar with courtroom personnel
  • Understand the importance of keeping your child safe from harm and distress
  • Have the objectivity to help you make clear-headed decisions
  • Know how to negotiate skillfully and diplomatically
  • Are excellent legal advocates when you need them most

Contact Our Experienced Child Custody Attorneys Today

When you’re dealing with child custody, the stakes couldn’t be higher. That’s why having one of our child custody attorneys at your side can be a godsend. Contact us now so we can do the heavy lifting.