San Antonio Child Custody Lawyer Providing Legal Services and Guidance for Clients
Child custody is perhaps one of the most emotional and contentious areas of a divorce. The thought of being deprived of seeing your children every day can leave parents on edge. This is when working with a San Antonio child custody lawyer is most important. Learn the basics of how child custody cases work in Texas and what a child custody attorney can do to help your case be resolved in a favorable manner.
How Does Child Custody Work in Texas?
Child custody in Texas is a little different than in other states because it is referred to as ‘conservatorship’. The parents of the child are appointed as conservators – one can be named a managing conservator while the other can be named a possessory conservator. In addition, certain types of child custody cases can have joint conservatorship or sole conservatorship. These terms can sound confusing, but in essence, they are equivalent to sole custody or joint custody in other states.
For example, if you wish to have joint custody of your child and share the rights and responsibilities of a parent with your ex, you may seek a joint managing conservatorship. If you would prefer to be in charge of all parenting decisions for your child or believe your ex-spouse is not fit to share parenting rights and responsibilities, you may seek a sole managing conservatorship. Generally speaking, Texas courts may often favor joint managing conservatorships because they believe it is in the best interests of the child to maintain a relationship with both parents and allow parents to share decision-making power over important aspects of the child’s life.
What Are the Reasons for a Parent to Get Full Custody in Texas?
It goes without saying that divorces can be hard for all parties involved, especially with children. Sometimes, one parent may wish to get full decision-making rights over the child for personal reasons or because they dislike their ex. It is important to understand that Texas laws place a strong emphasis on choosing joint managing conservatorships for child custody cases whenever possible, and a parent seeking a sole managing conservatorship must be prepared to show enough evidence to convince the judge that the arrangement will be in the best interests of the child. The court may grant sole managing conservatorship rights to one parent if he or she can prove that the child would be in danger of physical or emotional abuse if the other parent is allowed to have access to the child. Cases involving substance abuse, domestic violence, or behavior that threatens the well-being of the child may be considered by the court for sole managing conservatorship.
It is also important to consider that sometimes parents wish to have full decision-making rights for the child as well as have the child reside with them most of the time, allowing a visitation schedule for the other parent. Other times, the parent seeking sole managing conservatorship believes the other parent is a threat and wishes to completely cut off any access that parent may have to the child. In both cases, working with a child custody attorney is extremely important, because you will likely need to show strong evidence to convince the court that allowing for joint managing conservatorship will not be in the best interests of the child.
Can Children Decide Which Parent They Wish to Live With?
In Texas, a child who is at least 12 years old can express their wishes to the court concerning which parent the child wishes to live with. However, the child cannot exactly make that decision, as it is ultimately up to the court to decide the best custody arrangements for each case. The wishes of the child are just one of many factors a judge may use to decide which parent the child will live with.
This is important because children may sometimes choose to live with a certain parent for the wrong reasons, such as that parent having less strict rules or giving the child certain freedoms that may not work in the child’s favor in the long run. The judge will listen to what the child has to say, but will also consider other factors such as the child’s relationship with each parent, which parent has been the main caretaker of the child during most of the marriage, and which parent is more likely to provide a safe and nurturing environment for the child.
How Far Can a Custodial Parent Move in Texas?
In Texas, parents wishing to relocate may do so at any time and without restrictions if they are planning to move without the child. However, moving away with the child is a step that must be done carefully, as the courts set strict limits on how far a custodial parent may move with the child. In practical terms, the custodial parent may move with the child to any location within the county where the divorce was finalized or to any adjacent county. Moving any farther than that may require court authorization, and courts take relocation requests very seriously.
Because in most cases, Texas courts prefer to make arrangements that allow both parents to be involved in the child’s life, a custodial parent wishing to move out of state or outside the allowed radius must present sufficient evidence to explain why they believe the move will be in the best interests of the child. If the court determines that the move is an attempt to alienate the other parent or is otherwise not going to benefit the child, the request may be denied. If the custodial parent decides to move anyway, he or she may be giving up custodial rights and transferring them to the other parent and may not be legally allowed to bring the child with them, unless the move is approved by the court.
Do Mothers Get Preference in Custody Cases in Texas?
Custody disputes in Texas are no longer governed by any type of gender bias, and contrary to popular belief, the mother does not get any preferential treatment and is not automatically chosen as the custodial parent during a child custody battle. The courts default to using the best interests of the child standard rather than assuming the mother is the best caretaker for the child, meaning both mothers and fathers have equal rights, and whenever possible, the courts tend to favor joint custody (or joint managing conservatorship) arrangement to allow the child to spend time with both parents.
However, there is one key exception. When a mother is not married to the father of her child, Texas laws consider the mother to be the sole conservator of the child. The father may seek parental rights through paternity action; otherwise, it will be the mother’s sole right to live with the child and make all decisions for the child.
What Are the Grounds for Losing Custody of a Child in Texas?
As stated above, the courts in Texas use the child’s best interests standard when making child custody decisions. However, some cases may require modifications if there is evidence that one of the parents is engaging in certain behaviors that might be harming the child. In these cases, the parent may be subject to losing custody of the child.
There are several grounds for losing custody of a child. The most common one is child abuse. If a parent has engaged in any type of physical abuse against their child, CPS (Child Protective Services) may get involved to investigate, and that parent’s custodial rights may be terminated. The same may apply to several forms of abandonment, child neglect, and educational neglect. In addition, if that parent is proven to be engaging in substance abuse, domestic violence, or has been convicted of a felony or serious criminal offense resulting in imprisonment, that parent may also be stripped of any custodial rights.
Furthermore, what some parents may be unaware of is that failure to comply with court orders concerning many aspects of custody (such as a parenting plan, visitation schedule, or another custody order) is a very serious situation that could also result in loss of custodial rights. It could also result in being charged with contempt of court and result in other significant consequences.
Finally, if a parent legally gives up their parental rights, they give up all their responsibilities towards the child. Still, they also give up any rights to visitation, parenting time, and decision-making for the child. If you believe a custody modification is necessary because the other parent is endangering the well-being of your child or you have the grounds to initiate legal action to gain sole conservatorship of your child, your first step should be to reach out to a San Antonio child custody attorney to discuss your case.
Why Should I Work With a Child Custody Attorney?
Many clients are tempted to self-represent in a divorce or child custody case because they believe they can cut costs by avoiding attorney fees. However, even if your child custody matters are being dealt with in an amicable manner, the issue can still be extremely emotional for both parties, and the case could end up being decided in favor of the other parent if the parent who chooses to self-represent appears to be unprepared and has not been able to build a strong argument to effectively make their case to the court. They may end up making decisions in the heat of the moment rather than thinking objectively, and those hastily decisions may affect them and their children for many years.
At the Law Offices of S. Dylan Pearcy, you can get the knowledgeable advice and legal services you need to effectively navigate your child custody case, present your side of the story in court and maximize your chances of a favorable outcome. Attorney S. Dylan Pearcy and his legal team have been assisting clients in San Antonio and surrounding areas with a wide variety of family law and child custody matters, ranging from the simplest cases to long, complex court battles. We understand how stressful it is to not know what will happen to your children and how the whole situation will affect your relationship with them.
When you choose to work with the Law Offices of S. Dylan Pearcy, you can rest assured you will be getting top-notch representation along with compassionate and objective advice you need to take the right steps in your custody case. When so much is on the line, choosing to fight it all on your own is risky and can end up resulting in costly mistakes. Instead, reach out to the Law Offices of S. Dylan Pearcy by calling (210) 953-7486 and requesting a no-commitment initial consultation to discuss your options and see how our legal team may help you settle your child custody dispute.