Splitting up a family with children is just a sad business. Even if it is necessary. If a couple must divorce, the children should be given top priority. A child of divorce still needs both parents. So, even though a couple will be physically separated by divorce, they will forever remain joined by their child. There are four main issues in a Dallas or Collin County, Texas child custody case:
Where will the child primarily live;
Who makes the decisions for the child;
What are the rules of visitation and how often; and
Will the child’s primary residence be restricted to a certain area?
1. Unless there has been family violence, a court is going to send a child to live with the parent who either has been taking the most care of the child or who is better able to be the primary caregiver. Sometimes it can come down to logistics. The child’s age has a lot to do with the primary residence as well.
2. Texas family law has lists of rights and duties for parents. There are certain things parents must-do for a child and there are rights as to what decisions can be made for a child. Both rights and duties can be shared by parents or a court can give decision making power to just one parent. For example, family violence and child neglect will strip a parent of decision making power.
So, it is possible for a parent to have visitation, but not even be able to decide whether their child should have surgery or where the child should go to school. A parent’s own behavior will determine what kind of parent he or she can be. What most people would call custody, the Texas Family Code calls conservatorship. There are two types: sole managing conservatorship and possessory conservatorship.
3. Texas family law has a set of standard visitation schedules. A child will be said to primarily live at one residence and visit the other. Basically, visitation is the 1st, 3rd and 5th weekends, Friday through Sunday. Extended possession would include a weeknight every week, most often Thursdays.
If parents live more than 100 miles apart, the visitation schedule will be different. Visitation at this distance is usually once a month. Arguments tend to be about who does the driving/flying and whether the parents should meet at a half-way point.
4. Given the mobility and freedom of our society, Texas family law allows a restriction to be put on how far a parent can take a child to set up residence, called a geographic restriction. The point of the geographic restriction is to make sure the other parent gets to have “frequent and continuing contact” with their child. Geographic restrictions on a child’s residence are the subject of many a fight.
It is far better if two parents can agree on visitation, residence and calling the shots. If you want a court to decide these things for you, a Texas court will look at many factors to make these decisions. These cases usually turn on several facts. So, picture the scales of justice and realize some facts weigh more than others. Feel free to call me to see how your facts might weigh-in.