Tag Archives: child custody

Child Custody for Military Parents

Child Custody for Military Parents

With the strong presence of the U.S. military in the Fort Worth area, we’ve become familiar with just how child custody issues affect military families. We have handled numerous military divorce cases, as well as child custody disputes that happen outside of marriage or years after a divorce has occurred. Here are some key things that military parents should know about child custody.

Determining Child Custody During Deployment

Child custody can be tricky for military parents because relocations and deployment can interfere with parenting time. The process of determining child custody and a parenting plan may be especially complicated if one parent is deployed overseas.

When a parent is on active duty, the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act protects them. If a parent attempts to change the child custody status while the other parent is deployed, the deployed parent can invoke their rights under the SCRA to postpone the hearing.

When the primary parent is deployed, courts can’t permanently change child custody. However, they can change it temporarily. Courts can order that temporary child custody is with someone else while the primary parent is deployed.

The law states that the first choice for custody should be the other parent unless other circumstances keep the arrangement from being in the child’s best interest. If the other parent isn’t given custody, the law says the second choice must be someone of the primary parent’s choosing.

Interstate and International Custody Disputes

For military families, child custody disputes can often reach across Texas borders—and sometimes even international borders. When a child custody dispute spans multiple states, state law determines the child custody dispute. It takes an experienced lawyer to make sure that the parent-child relationship is properly protected.

When a child custody dispute spans multiple countries, international law comes into play. The 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction aims to protect children from the harmful effects of parental abduction.

The convention provides a process for a parent to get a child back when the other parent has taken the child out of the country. Countries that have signed on to the convention promise to cooperate to make sure a child is returned to the custodial parent. This law interacts with other important laws, like the International Parental Kidnapping Crime Act (IPKCA) and the UCCJEA to protect the parent-child relationship.

Contact Us for Help With Military Child Custody Matters

If you need help with child custody matters, talking with a lawyer is a good way to get real information. For a confidential consultation, call our Fort Worth office at 817-755-1852 or send us a message. At the Schneider Law Firm, P.C., we have extensive experience helping military families in matters affecting their children.

Reasons to Modify a Child Custody Order

Reasons to Modify a Child Custody Order

Putting a divorce behind you can feel liberating. Instead of being tied up in the emotions that came with your divorce, you begin to focus on moving forward. This can be complicated—especially when child custody is involved. Your children have changing needs and schedules that may make it necessary to return to court to modify an existing court order.

Relocation: Changing Child Custody When Moving Somewhere Else

Relocation is a common reason for modification of child custody. When one parent moves, a child custody and visitation schedule that used to meet the family’s needs may no longer work. Parents and courts can amend the schedule to be a better fit.

It’s important to know that a law called the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA) protects non-custodial spouses in Texas. The law says that custodial parents can’t move more than 100 miles away without getting prior approval from the court. If you’re considering moving with your child, you will want to get the court’s permission before you make the change.

Remarriage: Child Custody After a Parent Remarries

New marriages often mean changes to existing child custody agreements. That’s because they often come with changes in living arrangements and schools, new siblings and financial changes that can all affect the time parents can spend with their children. They also affect the decisions that need to be made for them. We often hear from parents who need to modify an existing agreement after remarriage.

Change in a Work Schedule That Affects Child Custody

When there’s been a significant change in circumstances, like long-term changes to a parent’s work schedule, it’s possible to ask the court to change the child custody and visitation agreement. You’ll probably need to provide the court with evidence of the change. Official documents that list your new work schedule are usually sufficient evidence.

Change in Ability to Provide Childcare

Significant, long-term changes in one parent’s ability to provide childcare can also be the reason for child custody order modifications. Often, parents create a plan that takes their schedules and finances into account. But changes to those schedules and finances can mean they need to make different childcare plans.

Change in the Child’s Needs or Health

Courts aim to consider the best interests of the child in parenting matters. When a child’s needs change significantly, this can impact the court’s assessments. A medical diagnosis—like a learning disability or a chronic illness—or an accident that requires rehabilitation can be reasons to modify an existing court order.

Get Help With Child Custody Modification. Contact an Attorney.

Matters of child custody can be stressful because they affect the people who are most important to you. That’s why it’s critical to have an experienced attorney on your side.

If you need legal help with modifying a child custody order, get started by calling the Arlington office of the Schneider Law Firm, P.C., at 817-799-7125 or send us a message. Our Texas child custody lawyers are here to support you.

Virtual Visitation: Parenting Time in the Digital Age

Now more than ever, parents and kids use technology to keep in touch. Advances including Zoom, FaceTime, email, and text have made it possible for parents and their children to forge close connections through a virtual visitation—even when one parent lives far away.

Texas law has changed over time, as well. Texas is one of several states that allow virtual visitation. The law is codified in Texas Family Code Section 153.015. Also called “e-visitation” or “e-access,” virtual visitation helps parents stay close to their children by having regularly scheduled online visits. 

It’s most often used in certain situations:  

  • When one parent lives far away, like in a different state or country
  • When frequent contact between the parent and child is required
  • When a family’s schedule or special needs make virtual visitation in the child’s best interests

Virtual Visitation Rules

Virtual visitation is allowed by Texas courts only when it’s in the best interests of the child. Courts weigh a series of factors to determine this, including the child’s needs and the parent’s capacity. Courts also make sure that the family has access to the technology necessary to make this work smoothly. It may seem like this is a given, but many people still struggle with access to technology.

Generally, courts order virtual visitation to supplement in-person visitation—not to replace it. A typical schedule may involve some virtual visitation in between periods of regular in-person visitation. For example, maybe Dad’s regular days are Tuesday and Thursday, but he likes to attend his kids’ soccer games virtually or help with homework on the days he’s not there in person.

There are some situations—like when a parent is an abuser or has substance abuse issues—that virtual visitation may not be appropriate. Courts look to protect children from their abusers, and virtual visitation is not adequate protection.

Parents must also promise not to interfere in the virtual visitation. It works best in situations in which a parent lets the child talk freely with the other parent without the conversation being monitored or interfered with.

Get the Support You Need To Bring You and Your Kids Closer

If you’re thinking that virtual visitation might be an option for you and your family, talk with the lawyers at the Schneider Law Firm. At our Ft. Worth law office, our attorneys can represent you in the child custody matters you face. Call 817-755-1852 or send us a message to discuss your situation and how we can get the best possible outcome for you.

What Is Parental Alienation?

Sometimes, one parent actively tries to undermine a child’s relationship with the other parent. A parent may do this by talking badly about the other parent in front of the child or by taking steps to prevent the other parent from having visitation. This is called parental alienation.

Signs of Parental Alienation

Courts often deal with divorces and child custody disputes that involve allegations of parental alienation. Typically, one side takes action that limits the other side’s parenting time or affects the child’s views of the other parent. The court must assess the situation and determine if the behavior rises to the level of parental alienation.

There can be many signs that parental alienation is affecting your relationship with your child, including:

  • Making negative comments about the other parent to the child
  • Allowing others around the child to make negative comments about the other parent
  • Unnecessarily involving the child in divorce details
  • Making the child unavailable during scheduled visits with the other parent
  • Concealing important information about the child’s schedule and activities from the other parent
  • Monitoring and preventing communications between the child and the other parent

How Parental Alienation Can Affect Your Divorce or Child Custody Case

The State of Texas doesn’t provide legal standards for evaluating parental alienation. However, Texas courts have started to act when they suspect parental alienation, and they’ve been taking matters seriously.

In divorces or child custody cases involving parental alienation, a judge may order that the child receives therapy or that the child may spend more time with the alienated parent. In extreme and serious cases, the parent who is causing the alienation may lose custody of the child.

What To Do if Parental Alienation Is Affecting Your Relationship With Your Child

If you believe that parental alienation is a factor in your divorce or child custody dispute, it’s important to get help. If the situation is left to go on too long, it may permanently damage your relationship with your child. It’s not unheard of for parents to lose months—or even years—of time with their children, just because the other parent shared nasty rumors and false information.

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 or send us a message. We can answer your questions about child custody and what a judge may consider if parental alienation is involved

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

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.

Child Custody Agreements and Summer Vacation Planning

Summer is the perfect time for a family vacation. Yet, as a divorced parent, how do you plan the perfect summer vacay around your child custody agreement? Here are a few necessary steps you should take.

First Things First: Check Your Custody Agreement

Before you start planning, check your child custody agreement. Do both you and your ex-spouse have specific dates each year for vacations? Or, do you have unspecified vacation time to use any time throughout the year? Understanding your agreement will help you decide how to move forward.

If you have unspecified vacations, give your ex-spouse at least a few weeks’ notice before your vacation. If there are scheduling conflicts, it’s best to work them out in advance.

Communicate With Your Ex-Spouse

For all vacations, make sure you communicate specifics with your ex-spouse. You’ll want clear ground rules in place to ensure the safety of your children. 

Some questions you and your ex-spouse should discuss include:

  • Are you able to leave the state or the country? 
  • Do you need to provide a travel itinerary to your ex-spouse?
  • Are there certain activities your child shouldn’t take part in?
  • What should be done in case of an emergency?
  • Will the other spouse receive additional days with the child to make up for the vacation?

Once you have this initial discussion, it’s best to create a plan to use for next time you decide to take a trip. Your family law attorney can help you modify your child custody agreement to include these specifics.

Remember to Be Reasonable

It’s best to be open and reasonable with your ex-spouse when vacation planning. Try your best to not schedule vacations during important events such as holidays, especially if it’s your spouse’s time with the children. Remember to keep your child’s best interests in mind at all times.

Call Schneider Law Firm, P.C. for Custody Help

Are you struggling with balancing a child custody agreement with vacation planning? Our team of family law attorneys can help. To learn more about child custody or to speak with an attorney, give our Ft. Worth law firm a call at 817-755-1852 or send us a message.