Originally published by The Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC Blog.
If you are involved in a
family law case in Texas then you are likely interested in knowing what you need
to do in order to best position yourself within the case. Certainly your
concerns lie mainly in being able to spend as much of your time with your
child as possible and to have a hand in making important decisions in
your child’s life. The rest, as they say, is just details.
The reality is that you need to know how to prepare yourself within your
case in order to be able to make credible arguments regarding your future
role in your child’s life. Although there is a presumption in place
under Texas law that both parents of a child should be named as joint
managing conservators of that child you will still want to have the evidence
available in your case point towards you becoming the primary managing
conservator if your case were to go to a trial.
Let’s take that assumption one step further: assuming that you and
your child’s other parent are going to be named as
joint managing conservators of your child, what are the biggest areas of disagreement that you can
expect to encounter in a negotiation or trial? In today’s blog post
from the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC we will discuss the subject of what
questions really matter in a Texas child custody case.
Designating the primary residence of your child
This is the big one that parents in child custody and divorce cases alike
get up in arms about- with good reason. Being able to designate the primary
residence of your child means three things. The first is that you are
able to live with your child during the week when school is in session
and for most of the summer. As a result you are awarded more time with
your child. Under a Standard Possession Order (SPO) this means that you
will likely be able to spend 55% of the year with your child, if not more.
Next, you have the right receive
child support from your child’s other parent. If you have one child at issue in
the custody/divorce case this means that 20% of your child’s other
parent’s income is on the hook for child support. Child support
is intended to even the scales a bit since the other parent does not see
your child as often and will not be responsible for much of the day to
day costs associated with raising the child. Keep in mind that child support
is not intended to allow your child to live the lifestyle that he has
become accustomed to or anything like this. It is meant to care for the
base essentials of daily life.
Third, being named as conservator with the right to designate the primary
residence of your child means that you are able to also be awarded superior
rights as to your child as well. It is typical that the parent with the
right to designate the primary residence of the child also is able to
have superior rights to being able to make educational and health care
related decisions as well. This is not always the case but it is often
times the case.
What about a geographic restriction on where your child can reside?
Even after the conclusion of your child custody case the court will retain
jurisdiction over the case so that a judge will be able to issue additional
orders in the future if the need arises. A typical restriction that is
put on families after a child custody case is that of a geographic restriction
on where a child can reside. While you are no longer subject to the jurisdiction
of a court, your child will be until he or she turns 18 or graduates from
high school. As such a court can regulate where your child lives until them.
The purpose of a
geographic restriction is to allow both parents of a child to develop and maintain a relationship
with their child after a child custody case. The thought is that if there
would be no geographic restriction that is put into place a mother or
father who is the primary conservator of a child could move away from
Texas after a case ends causing the other parent to need to move as well
in order to keep up. A geographic restriction states that you as the primary
conservator of the child must live within a certain geographic area. It
could be Harris County and any county that borders Harris. It could be
within a certain zip code. Or it could be within the boundaries of a certain
A geographic restriction is usually lifted in the event that the non-primary
parent moves out of the geographic area where the parties are restricted
to living. For example if your child is restricted to living in either
Harris or Montgomery County and after two years you decide to move to
Waller County then the geographic restricted is automatically lifted.
Your ex-spouse can move with your child wherever he or she wants. The
reasoning behind this is that the geographic restriction is intended to
benefit you, and if you decide to make a decision that does not coincide
with the order then you should not expect your ex-spouse to have to live
by the order either.
How is time with your child going to be divided up when your case concludes?
A Standard Possession Order (SPO), as its name implies, is the most typical possession schedule that is
handed out in a family law case in Texas. Its details can be found in
the Texas Family Code, but it basically involves the non primary parent
being awarded possession on the first, third and fifth weekends of each
month as well as a Thursday night during the school week. Holidays are
alternated on a yearly basis with the other parent. Summer vacation means
extended time to spend with the non primary parent as well.
If your case makes it all the way to a trial then a judge would likely
award the non primary parent a SPO barring evidence showing that it would
not be appropriate. Things like family violence, drug or alcohol abuse
are examples of situations that could lead to a SPO award not being made
by a judge.
If you are a parent to a young child under the age of three then you should
be aware that a SPO does not apply to you or your child. A judge would
need to take your specific situation into consideration when handing out
an order for possession. Obviously the needs of a child under the age
of three are considerably different from older children. What typically
happens is that a “stair step” order goes into place which
allows the non primary parent to be awarded more time with your child
the older the child gets.
If your family has a unique circumstance involving a child with a disability
or a factor that we have not covered today the best advice that I can
provide you with is to contact an experienced family law attorney in order
to discuss your circumstances in greater detail. There is no substitute
for being able to get practical advice from someone who has dealt with
cases like yours before. While you can receive advice from anyone, the
advice isn’t worth much until the advice giver has seen and experienced
what you are going through in particular.
Questions about family law matters in Texas? Contact the Law Office of
The attorneys with the
Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC appreciate your time and interest in today’s blog topic. If you
have any questions or seek clarification on anything that you’ve
read today please do not hesitate to
contact our office. We offer free of charge consultations six days a week in our office.
A licensed family law attorney would be honored to meet with you and answer
your questions and concerns in a pressure free environment.
We post to our blog every day of the wee and we hope to see you back here
tomorrow as we continue our discussion into relevant and important family