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Category Archives: Child Custody

What Do Judges Look for in Child Custody Cases?

In child custody matters, judges have a tough job. Experienced judges have heard thousands of child custody cases throughout their careers. This means:

  • They’re familiar with parents who didn’t tell the whole truth, who tried to manipulate the system or who turned to tricks to gain leverage in a divorce.
  • They’re often skeptical about what parents say.

This can make it challenging to convince them of your side of the story—especially in high-conflict cases when both parents are seeking sole custody.

It can be helpful to know what judges look for in child custody cases. Knowing how a judge looks at your case can help you give your attorney the information needed to represent you effectively in Texas courts.

The Best Interests of the Child

Generally, Texas courts use the “best interests of the child” standard when deciding child custody matters. This standard was outlined in a case called Holley v. Adams, and judges have said that it should apply in all child custody cases. The best interests of the child include the child’s basic needs, as well as emotional and mental health needs.

Are the Child’s Basic Needs Being Met?

The judge usually starts with an analysis of the child’s basic needs. The judge wants to see that the child lives in a safe home with enough food, clean clothes and regular care. They want to see proof that your child has a comfortable bed, as well as spaces for play, doing homework and eating meals.

Are the Child’s Emotional Needs Being Met?

Judges also look for a solid support network of family and friends. They’ll look for a network of extended family members who play an important role in your child’s life. They’ll also look for childhood friends and a school where your child is supported by knowledgeable professionals.

Are the Child’s Mental Health Needs Being Met?

Divorces and child custody disputes are mentally challenging—not just for parents, but for children too. You’ll want to share proof of your child’s well-being and appropriate mental-health support. This means setting appropriate boundaries without saying anything manipulative about the other parent or oversharing about the divorce.

If domestic violence has been a factor in the home, the child’s mental health needs are especially important to the judge’s decision.

Talk With Our Lawyers About Child Custody

At the Schneider Law Firm, P.C., we work to protect your relationship with your child. For a confidential consultation, call our Ft. Worth office at 817-755-1852. We can answer your questions about child custody and what a judge may consider in your unique case.

Sources:  

https://statutes.capitol.texas.gov/Docs/FA/htm/FA.153.htm#:~:text=1%2C%201999.-,Sec.,and%20access%20to%20the%20child.

https://law.justia.com/cases/texas/supreme-court/1976/b-5880-0.html

Who Has Custody of a Child When the Parents Never Married?

When a child is born to unmarried parents, Texas law says that the mother automatically has legal and physical custody of the child. That means that she has the authority to make legal decisions about the child’s life like the healthcare the child will receive, the child’s education and religion. It also means that the child will live with her. This holds true even if the father’s name is on the birth certificate.

What Can a Father Do To Gain Child Custody?

In Texas, fathers must establish paternity if they wish to have parental rights, including legal and physical custody. There are two ways to establish paternity in Texas:

  1. Sign an Acknowledgement of Paternity (AOP). An AOP is a legal document that allows parents who aren’t married to establish legal paternity. To get started, you can call the Attorney General’s AOP Hotline at 866-255-2006 or find an AOP certified entity online.
  2. Get a DNA test. Fathers can also file a special paternity lawsuit—or Suit to Adjudicate Parentage—in court. The lawsuit will require the father to take a DNA test, and the mother and child may also be required to file one. If the mother doesn’t consent, the father may need to ask the court to order her to submit to the DNA test.

After paternity is established, child custody isn’t automatic. The court will still need to issue an Order that gives the father child custody rights. This generally also includes an Order for the father to pay child support.

Like in other child custody cases, courts consider the best interests of the child when considering child custody in a paternity lawsuit. Courts weigh things like:

  • The desires of the child
  • The emotional needs of the child
  • The parental ability of the parent seeking custody
  • Programs available to assist the parent and the children.

The court’s analysis is different depending on the age of the child and that child’s unique needs.

Talk With a Lawyer About Protecting Your Parental Rights

If you are worried about protecting your relationship with your child in Texas, it’s a good idea to talk with the lawyers at the Schneider Law Firm, P.C., as soon as possible. We focus on protecting the best interests of the child by keeping parents and children together.

Call our Arlington law firm at 817-799-7125 to get started. Consultations with our attorneys are confidential. We’ll talk with you about your options and help you understand the best course of action.

Sources:

https://www.texasattorneygeneral.gov/child-support/paternity/acknowledgement-paternity-aop

What Is an Ad Litem?

When child custody matters become complex, the court sometimes appoints a professional called an ad litem to protect the interests of that child. Although they’re most commonly appointed in cases involving children, ad litems also represent adults who cannot represent themselves due to physical, mental or behavioral health issues.

Ad litems can also be appointed to represent missing or unknown parties who should have representation in a legal matter where they cannot be physically present. If your case involves complex matters—such as allegations of child abuse or neglect—here’s what you should know.

The Types of Ad Litems

There are three different types of ad litems. The ad litem’s duties depend on the type of ad litem and the role they are playing in your case. These include:

  • Attorney ad litems: Attorney ad litems are required to be attorneys.
  • Attorney/guardian ad litem (dual role): This person is appointed to act as both an attorney ad litem and a guardian ad litem.
  • Guardian ad litem: Guardian ad litems do not need to be attorneys, but they often are. Courts appoint them to represent the best interests of the child.
  • Amicus attorney: “Amicus” means “friend of the court”. An amicus attorney is appointed by the court to help the judge make decisions about a child’s best interests. The judge appoints the amicus attorney to help the judge be more effective. The amicus attorney does not provide legal services directly to a child.

What Are an Ad Litem’s Duties?

The Texas Family Code sets forth 27 specific duties of an ad litem. The first duty of an ad litem is to investigate to determine the best interests of the child. This can mean different things, depending on the case.

Your ad litem will likely conduct interviews with each parent. They may also interview relevant parties, including your child’s teacher and therapist.  They may also obtain copies of your child’s relevant medical records, psychological records and school records. If your child is four years old or older, the ad litem will also interview the child in a developmentally appropriate way.

The ad litem will then attend mediation related to the child and may attend relevant hearings and trials. The ad litem can testify to represent the child’s best interests effectively.

To get a full understanding of the role the ad litem is playing in your case, you’ll want to talk with an attorney.

If You Need Help With Child Custody Matters, Call an Attorney.

At the Ft. Worth office of the Schneider Law Firm, P.C., our attorneys can answer your questions about the role of an ad litem and help protect your children no matter what challenges you are experiencing. Call 817-755-1852 to talk with us about your situation.

Sources:

https://statutes.capitol.texas.gov/Docs/FA/htm/FA.107.htm

2019-2020 Houston Family Law Handbook

Medical Decisions, Medical and Dental Support for Children

Most parents would do anything to keep their kids happy and healthy. So, when a child’s medical or dental care is affected, it can bring up co-parenting challenges that are difficult to resolve. At the Schneider Law Firm, P.C., we support our clients in working with their co-parents during the divorce process and afterward. Our focus is on making sure you stay healthy and financially secure.

Making Medical and Dental Decisions for Your Child

When Texas courts make child custody decisions, they decide on something called “legal custody.” Legal custody gives a parent the legal authority to make critical decisions for their child. These decisions can include what doctor your child will see or what type of medical care they will get for a serious health condition.

Legal custody can be given to one parent (sole) or both parents (joint) and is most commonly shared between the parents. That means you and your co-parent will need to communicate regarding important medical decisions affecting your child.

If you and your co-parent cannot agree on medical issues for your child, you have several options. You may be able to have a neutral third party make the decision for you. Sometimes, divorcing parents stipulate this neutral third party in the divorce decree.

You may also pursue mediation to help you arrive at an agreement that works for both parents and is in the child’s best interests.

Medical Support and Dental Support

Texas courts usually order medical support and dental support in addition to child support. This support makes sure that medical and dental costs are covered so that your child can receive the care he or she needs.

  • Medical support: Courts generally order medical support that requires a parent to pay the “reasonable cost” of the child’s health insurance, as well as other medical expenses for a child (like co-pays and deductibles). A judge may order you to provide health insurance coverage for your child, to reimburse the other parent for the cost of health insurance coverage, or to pay cash medical support if your child receives Medicaid.
  • Dental support: Since 2018, Texas courts have ordered that dental insurance must be provided for children in a divorce. Dental support is similar to medical support in that it covers the reasonable cost of dental insurance, as well as other dental expenses for a child (like co-pays and deductibles).

Questions About Your Kids’ Medical and Dental Needs? Contact an Attorney.

Call the Arlington office of the Schneider Law Firm, P.C., at 817-799-7125 to talk with us about your child’s medical or dental needs during a divorce or afterward. Our Texas lawyers are here to support you and your family.

https://statutes.capitol.texas.gov/Docs/FA/htm/FA.154.htm#154.064

 https://texaslawhelp.org/article/child-support-medical-support-and-dental-support#toc-4

Am I Eligible for an Uncontested Divorce?

Many couples know they wish to end their marriage yet fear the emotional pain of fighting in court. For those couples who wish to finish proceedings quickly and with cost in mind, there’s the option of uncontested divorce.

What Is an Uncontested Divorce in Texas?

An uncontested divorce is the simplest form of divorce. There is no “contest” which means both you and your spouse agree on all terms. Uncontested divorces are often resolved faster than contested divorces. It’s also common for these divorces to be less expensive due to reduced court costs.

Who Is Eligible for an Uncontested Divorce?

Those who wish to move forward with an uncontested divorce must meet specific requirements. First, you and your spouse must agree on all aspects of your divorce, including the grounds or reason for the divorce. Other aspects include:

  • Property division: You and your spouse must have a property settlement that fairly divides all of your marital assets and debts. This includes bank accounts, mortgages, vehicles, property, personal items and more.
  • Spousal maintenance: If you or your spouse will receive maintenance or alimony, you must have a plan that explains the amount of the maintenance and how long you or your spouse plans to pay.
  • Child custody and visitation: You must know who will have custody of your children and whether it’s joint or sole custody. You must also agree how much visitation each of you will have and when visitation will occur.
  • Child support: You must agree on the amount of child support you or your spouse will receive and when.

Divorce Mediation

Do you and your spouse disagree on the aspects of divorce? If so, your divorce is considered to be contested. Yet, you do have the option to try mediation. If you and your spouse are able to work together amicably, an attorney can help you negotiate and reach an agreement outside of court. Like uncontested divorce, mediation can also save you time and money in court costs.

Reach Out to Schneider Law Firm Today

Whether your divorce is uncontested or contested, we recommend reaching out to an attorney. We’re here to support you. To learn more about divorce or to discuss your options, give our Fort Worth office a call at

Military divorce requires a unique approach. The experienced military divorce lawyers at Schneider Law Firm are here to support you. To learn more about your divorce, give our Fort Worth office a call at 817-799-1852 or send us a message.

Understanding the Different Types of Child Custody & Visitation

During a divorce with children, you and your ex-spouse must reach a custody agreement. If you and your ex cannot create an agreement on your own, the court will decide what type of child custody is best for your child, as well as any applicable visitation arrangements. 

Understanding Child Custody

There are two parts to child custody: include legal custody and physical custody. Let’s dive a bit deeper into both.

Legal Custody

Legal custody gives you the ability to make critical decisions on your child’s behalf. These decisions can include, for example, where your child will attend school and what doctor they’ll see. Legal custody can be given to one parent (sole) or both parents (joint). 

Physical Custody

Physical custody refers to where your child lives. For example, you may have sole physical custody, which means the child lives primarily with you and your ex-spouse has visitation rights. Or, you might share physical custody, which means the child lives with you part of the time and your ex-spouse part of the time. 

In some cases, custody arrangements include one parent with legal and physical custody. In other cases, both parents will share legal custody with one parent having physical custody. It all depends on what the court decides is best for your child.

What Types of Visitation Are Available?

If sole custody is included in your custody agreement, you or your ex-spouse will be awarded visitation, so that you may be with your child on a regular basis. There are two common visitation methods used frequently by the court:

  • Unsupervised visitation: In unsupervised visitation, the parent can take the child to their own home or on any outing without supervision.
  • Supervised visitation: Courts will sometimes order supervised visitation, which means the parent must visit their child while another adult is present. This adult may be someone appointed by the custodial parent or a social worker designated by the court.

Call the Team at Schneider Law Firm Today for Custody Help

Child custody can be difficult to understand on your own. If you’re considering a divorce, reach out for help. For answers to your questions or to speak with a divorce attorney today, give our Arlington law office a call at 817-799-7125 or send us a message.

When to Consider Modifying Your Child Custody Order

A child custody order explains the custody arrangement for your children and is often created during a divorce or legal separation. If your order no longer works for you and your family, you can request a child custody modification in court.

When Should You Consider Modifying Your Child Custody Order?

Here are common reasons why a parent may seek to modify an existing custody order.

  • A parent is relocating: If you or your ex-spouse decides to relocate to a distant location, the court will consider changing the custody order. 
  • A child is in immediate danger: If abuse is suspected in the current household, the court will consider a modification.
  • A parent’s work schedule changes: If either spouse’s work schedule changes, a modification may be required to ensure a child can attend school and other activities.
  • A parent’s health changes: If a parent receives a diagnosis requiring medical attention, the order may need to be modified to ensure a child’s life isn’t interrupted due to medical care.

Other reasons for modifications may include the death of a parent, custody order violations, remarriage and a parent’s inability to provide childcare.

The court may not consider changing a child custody order if it appears to work. After all, they’re most concerned about what’s in the best interests of your children. If a modification will disrupt your child’s life, the court will want solid reasons why it’s a must.

When to Consider Modifying Your Child Custody Order | Schneider Law Firm, P.C. | iStock-598689282
817-755-1852 – Change is inevitable. You may need to consider modifying your child custody order if it’s in your child’s best interests. To learn more, visit us today.

The Child Custody Modification Process

If you believe you have a solid reason for modification, you must file a petition or motion to modify child custody in court. Once filed, the other parent will receive notice of the motion. The case will then reopen and follow a similar process as the original case. If you can prove your case for modification, you and your ex-spouse will receive a new custody order reflecting the changes.

We recommend reaching out to an attorney who can help you determine your options and how to best proceed.

Reach Out to Schneider Law Firm in Ft. Worth Today

Do you believe you need a child custody order modification? If so, we’re here to help. To learn more about custody modifications, call our Ft. Worth office today at 817-755-1852 or send us a message.

When a Child Custody Order Is Confusing

We sometimes hear from parents who are confused and upset by the court orders they received from Texas courts. For example, a child custody order might say different things on different pages, or it might be written in a way that doesn’t make sense or that’s too vague to follow.

The court order makes child custody and visitation a challenge, and it can cause disagreements between the parents. Sometimes, one parent accuses the other of not following the order when that parent was just following a different part of the order. Not following the order is called “being in contempt.” It’s a serious problem that can get you into deep trouble in Texas courts.

A Motion to Clarify

If your child custody order doesn’t make sense to you or the other parent, or if it’s causing conflict in your custody arrangement, there are actions you can take. Texas law allows parents and their attorneys to file something called a “motion to clarify.” The motion asks a court to clarify an order if the court finds that the order is not specific enough and that one parent could be held in contempt if the order was clarified.

Your lawyer can help you seek a motion to clarify before the court finds that one parent is in contempt, as part of a contempt proceeding, or after a denial of a motion for contempt.

When a Child Custody Order is Confusing | Schneider Law Firm, P.C. | iStock-1090431444

817-799-7125 – Texas law allows parents to file a motion for clarification when a child custody order is unclear, and a parent may be acting in contempt for not following it. Get help from an attorney at the Schneider Law Firm, P.C., in Arlington. 

What a Motion to Clarify Doesn’t Do

When the court grants the motion to clarify, it simply rules to change the order to be less confusing. There are things that a motion to clarify does not do, including:

  • Substantively change the order: A change in a court order is called a “child custody modification.” If you would like the order changed so that the terms of the arrangement are different, seeking a modification is probably a better fit for you. Talk with your attorney.
  • Apply retroactively to hold a parent in contempt: The order only applies going forward, so you can’t ask the court to clarify the order, and then immediately hold the other parent accountable for not following it in the past.

Get a Lawyer’s Help for Confusing Child Custody Orders

When a child custody order is confusing, it’s best to get legal help. Following only your interpretation of the order can lead to trouble. And if the other parent isn’t following the order because of confusion, get legal help too. Your attorney can protect your interests and your relationship with your child.  Start by calling the Arlington office of the Schneider Law Firm, P.C., at 817-799-7125.

Sources:

https://statutes.capitol.texas.gov/Docs/FA/htm/FA.157.htm

https://texaslawhelp.org/article/clarifying-visitation-orders-answers-common-questions#toc-2

Being a Good Parent, Even When You Can’t Always Be With Your Child

According to a 2019 research study, only about 60% of kids in the United States live with their married, biological parents. The rest live in many different situations—commonly residing with one biological parent with visitation from the second biological parent after a divorce. With this happening so frequently, it’s no wonder that many parents wonder how they can continue being good parents to their children, even when they can’t always be with them. Here are some tips.

Always Show Up When You Say You Will

Keeping your child’s trust is much, much easier than re-establishing if after you’ve lost it. So, it is critical to your relationship with your child that you don’t promise things you can’t deliver, and that you always show up when you say you will.

Of course, this is harder than it sounds. Modern-day parenting is complex, and most parents juggle heavy workloads and many competing responsibilities. But your children should always come first. Block off your visitation time on your calendar and make sure other people in your life understand that visitation time always take priority.

How to Be a Good Parent | Schneider Law Firm, P.C.
817-755-1852 – After a divorce, there are actions you can take to stay connected with your child. Here are some tips from the Schneider Law Firm, P.C., in Arlington, TX.

Make Visitation Time a Special Time to Focus on Your Child 

During your visitation time, make sure your child is your primary focus. Set aside time to do something with your child, like making an art project, going to the park or just playing video games together. It’s easy to get caught up in using parenting time to take children to and from activities but try to resist it: quality time is important.

If possible, make a special place in your home for your child—like your child’s bedroom that you decorate together. If that’s not possible, make sure your child has his or her own bed, toy bins and artwork on display. No matter what, make sure your child feels welcome in your home.

Find Ways to Stay Connected

Even if you can’t see your child every day, finding ways to stay connected can keep you feeling close. Set aside time to call your child or to send texts regularly. Add your child’s special events to your calendar so you will be sure to remember, even if you’re not there. Sometimes a silly GIF and a heartfelt “hope you had a great day” can go a long way toward making your kid smile.

Contact Us for Help With Legal Issues That Affect Your Kids

At the Schneider Law Firm, P.C., we understand just how important your relationship with your kids can be, and we work hard to protect it. If a legal issue affects your kids, our attorneys can help you take action and achieve the best possible outcome. For a confidential consultation, call our Arlington office at 817-799-7125.

Sources:

Child Custody for Holidays and Birthdays

Birthdays and holidays can be challenging enough when parents live together. When they live separately and co-parent, however, child custody can become especially complicated. 

In Texas, divorce agreements can accommodate many different parenting plans. In the absence of another agreement, Texas law offers some standard visitation guidelines.

General Visitation Guidelines in Texas

If you’re wondering if you and your child will spend a birthday or a holiday together, your divorce decree or child custody order is the first place to look. If you have questions about your custody order, calling your lawyer is a good idea. If the legal document does not outline specific dates, Texas’ standard visitation guidelines may apply.

Child Custody for Holidays and Birthdays | Schneider Law Firm, P.C. | iStock-619735158
817-755-1852 – Child custody can get complicated when it comes to birthdays, holidays and special events. Our attorneys can help.

Those guidelines can be complicated, but generally, when distance isn’t an issue:

  • Mother’s Day: If the mother isn’t in possession of the child on Mother’s Day, she’s entitled to spend Mother’s Day weekend with the child, from 6 p.m. on Friday through 6 p.m. on Mother’s Day.
  • Father’s Day: If the father isn’t in possession of the child on Father’s Day, he’s entitled to spend Father’s Day weekend with the child, from 6 p.m. on Friday through 6 p.m. on Father’s Day.
  • Birthdays: If a parent isn’t in possession of the child on the child’s birthday, they are entitled to pick the child up for two hours between 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. so they have some time to celebrate together.
  • Christmas: The parent the child lives with has possession of the child on even-numbered years. The other parent has possession of the child on odd-numbered years. Possession begins at 6 p.m. the day the child is dismissed from school for Christmas vacation. It ends at noon on December 28th.
  • Thanksgiving: The parent the child lives with has possession of the child on odd-numbered years. The other parent has possession of the child on even-numbered years. That way, a parent who spends Thanksgiving with the child will not spend Christmas with the child and vice versa.

How to Make Holidays and Birthdays Easier

Figuring out co-parenting can make a stressful event even more difficult. But, for all the heightened tensions parents feel, they should not forget that their words and actions can make a holiday stressful for the child, too. It’s important for them to take a step back and figure out the logistics calmly as adults. There are many other things you can do to make holidays easier for children, too, including asking kids what would make them happy that day and keeping the focus on them.

When Child Custody Gets Complicated, Get Legal Help

There are many child custody matters that a blog post can’t answer. When things are confusing and child custody arrangements get tense, it’s best to talk with a lawyer. At the Ft. Worth office of Schneider Law Firm, P.C., our attorneys can answer your questions about child custody during birthdays and holidays. Call 817-755-1852 to talk with us about your situation.

 Source:

https://statutes.capitol.texas.gov/Docs/FA/htm/FA.153.htm