Often the most intense family law dispute is a fight over custody of the children. When parents disagree about where the children should primarily reside, the case often involves expert opinions and recommendations and multiple hearings over these issues. Many factors affect these decisions, but it has been my experience that the single most important issue is who has been the primary caregiver prior to the filing of a divorce or parent-child suit. This is not, however, the only issue. Often there are psychological issues, neglect or abuse or allegations of these factors, and sometimes the desires of the children. Children over 12 are often allowed to confer with the judge if the proper motions are filed.
Texas law states that there is no legal difference between the rights of a father and the rights of a mother, but many judges and many lay persons expect custody to usually go to a mother in a disputed case. I represent both moms and dads in custody disputes, but I often tell fathers that they have to prove they are a better mom than the mother is…and a better dad as well. Our firm tries to resolve these intense disputes in a way which does the least harm to children, but all potential litigants should recognize that these cases are difficult for the children. Children should not be put in the middle or made to choose between parents insofar as this is possible. In court, the children’s conversations with the judge are nearly always private and confidential. One should also recognize that often, children do not say what the parents are expecting.
Often, courts require a “social study” or child placement study. These are typically done by social workers, but are sometimes done by psychologists. It’s not a bad idea to consult with a social worker experienced in these evaluations before undergoing a social study. The social worker will normally visit both homes during the evaluation process.
Everyone should consider that there are no perfect parents and no perfect families. Divorce or parent-child suits arise because of these imperfections. This firm encourages all parents to try to keep a level head and keep both parents active in the lives of children. Sometimes the main issue is whether the primary residence can be in another area of the state or the country. Texas has statutes allowing for geographical restrictions on the children’s residence. You can move wherever you wish, but the children may not be able to go with you. The purpose of these rules is to allow both parents some reasonable access, but all of these cases will hinge on the facts of each case.
One final note. NEVER lose sight of the fact that children are (usually) the combination of both parents. Deep inside, if the children believe the “other” parent is “bad” the children will be harmed every time. Look at it like this, am I half bad? Maybe half of me is evil or worthless. Frankly, I do not allow clients to say bad things about the other parent in front of the children and in my presence. It is an absolute with me…don’t do it. I once threatened to “fire” a client because he called his wife, Evelyn, Evil One in front of the kids. Fortunately he got the message and stopped that behavior.
Agreed Divorce & related, $1,200
Agreed Divorce & related, $1,200 Uncontested Family Law matters