What to Expect During a Child Custody Case

Some divorce proceedings in Austin are uncontested. The divorced parents meet up, quickly draw up an amicable custody arrangement, and pretty much walk their separate ways. Some proceedings, however, are downright chaotic and emotionally taxing for all parties involved, as is often the case with those involving custody disputes. When parents approach Petrelli Previtera looking for a top-rated, high-caliber Austin child custody lawyer, they often have a string of questions and inquiries on the options available to them. With our child custody representation experience, our lawyers know how to support you during the process and the types of issues you and your loved ones might face down the road.

Child Custody Laws in Texas: A Deep Dive

Before getting to the negotiating table with an ex-spouse, it’s wise to first review the existing custody laws down to the last detail.

Terms to Comprehend

When most Austin divorcees think about child custody, what often comes to mind are words like “custody” and “visitation.” In Texas, however, there are replacement for these terms, and these are “conservatorship” and “possession” respectively.

Generally speaking, divorced parents in Austin are, by default, joint managing conservators. In this kind of setup, parental responsibilities and rights are split right down the middle. That means each party enjoys equal rights and commitments when it comes to an agreed-upon child’s custody arrangement. This rule, however, doesn’t apply to visitation time—at least not directly.

In a Texas divorce, the court has a significant say in the structure and provisions of a joint managing conservatorship. In most instances, though, custody plans are drafted, agreed upon, and implemented outside of court.

Contrastingly, sole managing conservatorships apply when only a single parent is tasked with making crucial decisions relating to the child’s education, healthcare, development, as well as psychological needs, and overall welfare. In cases involving domestic violence, family wrangles, and other factors that could put a child’s best interests in jeopardy, the role of a sole managing conservator will likely shift to the other parent. The at-fault parent will then get a clearly-defined visitation window, or what Texas law commonly calls “possession period.”

Possession/Visitation Schedule

Unlike most states, a typical Texas visitation schedule actually has a name; it’s called a standard possession order (SPO). If it’s deemed to be in the child’s best interests, this schedule sets forth an agreeable schedule for each party’s parental time with the child.

As the non-custodial parent, you may decide to let the standard SPO take its course. In that case, you’ll have full access and “ownership” of your child:

  • Every Thursday evening, approximately at 6:00 p.m.
  • On the first, third, and fifth weekends of every month
  • On alternating holidays
  • For one whole month during summer

In addition, the SPO designates the residence where the child will spend the holidays, the exact location for exchanges, and has clearly-defined stipulations for parents who live far apart (100 miles or beyond). However, there are two instances where the SPO might not apply:

  • If the child in question is three years old or younger
  • If the schedule is not in the child’s best interests

It’s worth noting, though, that parents following an SPO must agree to a favorable schedule. If they can’t seem to see eye-to-eye, then they will inevitably have to adhere to the SPO.

The Custody Determination Process in Texas

When settling a child custody dispute, Texas courts typically use the presumption that parental rights and responsibilities should be split right down the middle. In other words, courts often presume that joint custody will be the best solution for both parties, unless one parent can prove otherwise. However, this presumption only works if the custody determination is in the child’s best interests.

If one partner challenges this overarching presumption, then the court might grant a trial to hear what the disputing party has to say and hopefully reach an amiable plan at the end of it all. Some factors that a Texas court might consider when determining primary conservatorship:

  • The security, health, and overall well-being of the child
  • The relationship between each parent and the child
  • Each party’s financial standing
  • Each party’s mental and psychological fitness
  • Each party’s health status
  • A possible history of drug misuse, domestic violence, or child abuse
  • The proximity of the parents’ homes

Even if one parent is not granted physical custody, the court will take necessary steps to ensure the non-custodial parent and the child stay in frequent contact and communication. For the sake of the child’s ongoing and future well-being, emotional or otherwise, most Texas courts advice the disagreeing parents to work around their issues.

Texas Child Custody Laws Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What If I’m Dissatisfied with an Existing Custody Order?

It’s not uncommon for divorced parents to want to make changes in an existing custody order. Life happens, after all. In that case, it’s entirely up to you to pursue a modification that best suits your current circumstances and financial standing. As long as the adjustment you’re seeking is in the best interests of the child, most Texas courts will most likely grant it.

What Does a Parenting Plan Mean in the Context of TX Custody Laws?

A parental plan is absolutely important in the grand scheme of things—both for you and your child’s immediate and long-term future. A Texas parenting plan is simply a declaration of each parent’s responsibilities and rights as it pertains to their child’s well-being following a divorce. Some declarations enshrined in this formal document include the kid’s immediate place of residence, a parent’s child support commitments, and a raft of other declarations. 

Is Texas a Mother State In Matters Custody Resolution?

No. Texas courts never play the gender card when it comes to custody rulings. More often than not, the courts will make a determination based solely on the best interests of the child.

What Happens When My Ex and I Fail to Reach an Amicable Custody Arrangement?

If that case, you and your ex-spouse can request a trial to have the court deliver the final verdict on your behalf. Alternatively, both of you can appear in a mediation session steered by an impartial third-party.

How a Child Custody Lawyer in Austin Can Be of Help

The Texas custody laws are not something you can coast through without legal aid. Besides, the custody process in itself can be emotionally taxing and psychological draining. 

An Austin child custody attorney from our award-winning firm can walk you throughout the whole process, helping you reach a suitable child custody arrangement sooner than you expect. If the situation demands and the case ends up in court, we’ll aggressively defend your rights with every possible ammunition in our legal arsenal. Our lawyers are skilled advocators in as much as they’re fierce, forward-thinking litigators; so rest assured that we won’t settle for less than what you and your child truly deserve. 

Your Award-Winning Austin Child Custody Lawyers are Only One Call Away

If you’re having a hard time navigating your child’s custody wrangles, reach out to Petrelli Previtera today for a comprehensive initial consultation. The only thing standing between you and a winning strategy is one simple call to one of our Austin child custody attorneys. Don’t wait when you act right now and put to bed your custody woes once and for all.