What does child custody truly mean?

Child custody refers to the rights and obligations between parents, regarding their children, after a divorce, legal separation, or paternity decree. There are two independent types of custody. 

Physical custody

  • Refers to the amount of time each parent is permitted physically with a child. This may be sole, primary, or joint custody.

Legal custody

  • Refers to a parent’s decision-making rights regarding a child’s health, education, and welfare. It, too, may be sole, primary, or joint custody.

Often, the Court designates one parent as the primary physical custodian, giving the other parent a schedule of temporary custody and visitation. In some cases, however, the Court orders a joint legal and physical custody, by which, both parents have substantial access to their children.

The Court’s decision in a particular case is based upon, among other things, the child’s wishes, each parent’s historical nurturing role, and the relative circumstances of the parties going into the future.

Representing parents in custody cases is a challenging task that requires an attorney willing to advocate for your rights. Call Lowe Law, PLLC at (832)953-LOWE(5693) to discuss your child custody matters now, don’t wait!

Can a child decide who he or she will live with?

A child who is 12 years or older can execute an affidavit stating who he or she wants to be his or her managing conservator. The purpose of this affidavit is to inform the judge of the child’s election and is not binding on the judge. Additionally, a child older than 12 may be allowed to speak with the judge about his or her preferences on the parent he or she wants to reside with going forward.

How do I decide whether to seek sole custody or joint custody?

Lowe Law, PLLC can help you decide whether to file sole custody or joint custody. Texas law presumes that all parents will be granted the title of joint managing conservators. The presumption may not apply when issues such as drug abuse, alcohol abuse, or domestic violence affect the children. In those instances, one parent may be named the sole managing conservator and the other parent will be named the possessory conservator. The title given does not necessarily affect the other issues pertaining to the children. Regardless of the title, both parents will be awarded certain rights and duties to the children, and both parents will be awarded periods of possession of the children. It is important to discuss the specifics of your case with a child custody attorney prior to making this decision.

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How can I get legal custody if my child is living with me but the other parent has court-ordered custody?

If the person having custody of the child under the last court order voluntarily leaves the child in the possession of another person for a period of more than 6 months and the court finds that this arrangement is in the best interest of the child, the court may modify custody upon the filing of the proper motion with the court.

Additionally, the court can always modify a previous order if a material and substantial change has occurred and the previous order is no longer in the best interest of the child. Lowe Law, PLLC will provide details on any such modifications as your case is reviewed.

What sort of visitation is usually awarded?

Texas law presumes that a standard visitation schedule will be followed in most cases for children age 3 and older. A judge can deviate from the standard schedule with good cause, and special allowances can be made for religious holidays.

Of course, parents can agree on custody arrangements that differ from the standard visitation schedule, and judges frequently approve their agreement. Even if you and your spouse are in agreement on a schedule, it is still advised to hire a child custody lawyer to comb through the legalities.

Regardless of the visitation schedule written into the divorce decree, divorced parents can always agree to follow any workable schedule of visitation they feel is in the best for their child. Possession orders are made by judges to provide a definite visitation schedule in case parents cannot agree.

What is the standard possession order?

The Texas Family Code provides a standard possession order for parents who live within 100 miles of each other or over 100 miles of each other. For parents residing within 100 miles of each other, the standard possession basically divides holidays evenly between both parents and gives the parent with visitation the 1st, 3rd, and 5th weekend of every month, two hours on Thursdays, and 30 days during the summer. Lowe Law, PLLC will ensure your time is divided fairly.

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What type of visitation is included in the Standard Possession Order?

As your child custody attorney will explain, the standard child custody order for parents who live less than 100 miles apart states that one parent will have visitation on the following schedule:

  • Weekends starting at 6:00 p.m. on the first, third and fifth Friday of each month and ending at 6:00 p.m. on the following Sunday. (Under the expanded option visitation begins when school is dismissed on Fridays and return Monday to school).
  • Thursdays during the school year starting at 6:00 p.m. and ending at 8:00 p.m. (Under the expanded option, Houston child custody lawyers can ensure the period begins when school ends and/or ends when school resumes the following Friday morning).
  • From 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. on the child’s birthday. Fathers have possession for Father’s Day from 6:00 p.m. on the Friday before Father’s Day until 6:00 p.m. on Father’s Day. Mothers have the same period for Mother’s Day.
  • In even-numbered years: Parent A has the child during Spring Break, Parent B has the child for Thanksgiving, Parent A has the child for Christmas from the time school lets out until noon on December 28th, and Parent B has possession from December 26 until 6 p.m. on the day before school resumes. In odd-numbered years, the holiday schedule is reversed. Custody lawyers in Houston, TX should be familiar with this regulation so agreement on such details can more easily be reached.
  • The parent with visitation has the child for 30 days during the summer. If that parent gives notice before May 1, he/she can designate the 30 days during the summer when he/she has possession in up to two separate periods of at least seven days. If no notice is given, he/she has possession from July 1 until July 31.

What is the expanded standard possession order?

The Texas Family Code states that an expanded standard possession order shall be granted if parent with visitation requests it and it is in the best interest of the child. Your child custody lawyer will study your case and suggest this order if it is advisable. In most courts in the greater Houston area, an expanded standard possession order will be granted upon request.

An expanded possession order allows the parent to pick up the child for weekend possession at the time school is regularly dismissed, instead of at 6:00 p.m. The weekend ends when the child is dropped off at school on Monday, instead of at 6:00 p.m. on Sunday. Instead of 2hours every Thursday, there is an overnight visitation every Thursday.

What are the differences between a standard possession order for fewer than 100 miles and a standard possession order for over 100 miles?

The possessory parent has visitation every spring break when the parents live farther apart, instead of every other spring break when the parents live near each other. Similarly, summer visitation is expanded to 42 days, instead of 30 days. Finally, if a parent is unable to visit on the first, third and fifth weekend due to distance, the possessory parent may choose any one weekend per month for visits. Call (832)953-LOWE(5693) to discuss your child custody rights and options.

Are parenting classes required in custody cases?

Many courts require parents to take parenting classes when custody is at issue. There are many court approved courses online and in person.

BY ORDER OF HARRIS COUNTY FAMILY DISTRICT COURTS, all parents who are parties in divorce cases with suits affecting the parent-child relationship or motions to modify custody filed on or after May 1, 1997, are ordered to attend an educational seminar prior to appearing in court for final orders. Certificates verifying attendance by both parents at one of the parent education seminars listed shall be filed with the clerk of the court. Parents need not go to the same seminar or attend on the same date. Parents are URGED to make reservations at one of the seminars listed as soon as possible. There is a charge for attending these seminars, which is paid by the client but may be waived in cases of real financial hardship. Nearly all of the surrounding counties also require parenting classes. Some programs waive or reduce fees based on your financial need

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