Child Custody Lawyer – The Woodlands, Texas – Se Habla Espanol
Most parents want full custody of their children and will do almost anything to get it.
If you are seeking custody in Montgomery County, you need the best custody lawyer you can get.
Child custody cases are some of the most emotional areas of family law for parents and children. When you are ending a marriage or a relationship and you have children, you need to come up with a plan for their future. You and your spouse or partner need to agree on how you will share custody of your children and how you will arrange for visitations. If you cannot agree on a suitable custody arrangement, know that this is a common scenario. You need an experienced Woodlands child custody lawyer that can fight for you and your children’s best interests.
Ending a relationship and working hard to ensure a good future for your children may feel overwhelming at times. In addition to all the difficult emotions you may be dealing with, you probably also find the legal aspects of divorce and child custody to be complicated and confusing. We are here to help.
At the Law Offices of Diana Cavazos, we know you have a lot of questions. Below are the answers to some of the questions that we hear the most often. But every situation is different, and you probably have many questions that are not answered here. We would be glad to talk to you and find out more about your needs. Please call us at (281) 222-9113 for a phone consultation.
Child Custody Cases we Handle
• Modify Child Custody Agreements
• Grandparent Custody
• Child Relocation
• Custody Disputes
• Custody After Child Abandonment
• Petitions for Full Custody
• Revoke Custodial Rights
• Stepparent Custody & Adoption
Though the process of negotiating a child custody agreement and creating a parenting plan are tedious, the results of a carefully constructed child custody order cannot be underestimated.
A parenting plan is necessary before the final custody order is signed. A parenting plan provides specific details regarding:
1. right of each parent to make decisions medical decisions for the children
2. primary residence of each child
3. parents’ duty to provide financial support, aka child support
4. parents’ rights about the children’s education
5. responsibility to provide health insurance for the children
Texas Custody Laws & Legal Definitions
The specific laws that guide Montgomery County family courts regarding child custody cases is found in Texas Family Code Title 5 § 153. The phrase “best interest of the child” is repeated throughout Texas Family Code regarding child custody, reiterating the state’s priority in all cases regarding custody and visitation of children.
Texas Family Code § 153.002, Best Interest of the Child, specifically states:
“The best interest of the child shall always be the primary consideration of the court in determining the issues of conservatorship and possession of and access to the child.”
What Does Conservatorship Mean?
In Texas family code, conservatorship means the same thing as custody. A person with sole managing conservatorship has sole custody, while parents with joint managing conservatorship share joint custody of their children.
What Does Possession and Access Mean?
Possession and access in Texas Family Code refers to child visitation. When the law refers to someone having possession of and access to a child, they mean the person’s visitation rights and ability to communicate with the child.
How do judges make decisions about child custody in Texas Family Court?
Judges make decisions on child custody and visitation based on what would be in the best interest of the children involved, Montgomery County family courts are included. Texas Family Court judges try to ensure that children will live in a safe and stable environment. Courts want to encourage both parents to take part in raising their children. As long as parents act in the best interests of their children, the court will try to see that both parents will be able to be with their children often.
However, it is important to understand that in Texas Family Court judges have a broad scope of authority to decide matters involving divorce, child custody, and parental rights. In most cases the judge will appoint an expert called a custody evaluator. Each party seeking custody undergoes evaluation, and the opinion of the expert helps guide the judge’s ultimate decision for custody. Although Texas family laws are designed to guide a judge’s decision making, ultimately the judge has full discretion to make decisions regarding custody of children.
Answers to Frequently Asked Child Custody Questions
What is child custody?
The term “child custody” refers to a legal relationship you have with your child that is spelled out in a court order. In Texas, child custody is also sometimes called “child conservatorship.”
What is the difference between joint custody and sole custody?
In joint custody, the parents make shared decisions about important aspects of their children’s’ lives. In Texas, the legal term for parents sharing joint custody is “Joint Managing Conservators,” which is often referred to as “JCMs,” for short.
In sole custody — called “Sole Managing Conservatorship” or “SMC” in Texas — one parent has custody of the children, and the other parent has limited or no rights to make decisions on behalf of the children or to visit the children without supervision.
Texas courts prefer to grant joint custody whenever possible. However, in some cases, for example, where there has been spousal abuse or child abuse, the courts will order sole custody. A parent seeking sole custody of a child should seek legal counsel from an attorney experienced with complex child custody cases.
Does joint custody mean the child lives with each parent half of the time?
No. When parents have joint custody in Texas — in legal terms, when they are Joint Managing Conservators — they make joint decisions about their children.
Where the children live is a separate question. The court will name one parent the custodial parent (sometimes called the “managing conservator” or the “primary conservator.”) The child or children live with the custodial parent more than half of the time. The other (non primary conservator) parent usually must pay child support to the custodial parent to fulfill their duty to provide for the children financially.
How do judges make decisions about child custody in Texas Family Court?
The law that Texas Courts must follow when issuing child custody orders is found in Title 5 of the Texas Family Code.
Judges make decisions on child custody and visitation based on what would be in the best interest of the children involved. Texas Family Court judges try to ensure that children will live in a safe and stable environment. Courts want to encourage both parents to take part in raising their children. As long as parents act in the best interests of their children, the court will try to see that both parents will be able to be with their children often.
Do mothers have an advantage over fathers in Texas custody cases?
Texas law states that judges may not discriminate on the basis of sex when deciding child custody. Judges have a duty to appoint child custody responsibilities to parents free from discrimination or prejudice, including decisions for joint or sole custody or when setting terms and conditions for custody and visitation.
Texas Family Code Chapter 153 § 153.003 restricts custody discrimination.
“Sec. 153.003. NO DISCRIMINATION BASED ON SEX OR MARITAL STATUS. The court shall consider the qualifications of the parties without regard to their marital status or to the sex of the party or the child in determining:
(1) which party to appoint as sole managing conservator;
(2) whether to appoint a party as joint managing conservator; and
(3) the terms and conditions of conservatorship and possession of and access to the child.”
In practice, it may not always work that way. Here at the Law Offices of Diana Cavazos, we have experience representing mothers, fathers, grandparents, and other relatives who are seeking custody of children or child visitation rights. When we represent fathers, we fight for their rights to be treated fairly in court. We stand up against any discrimination they may face as men seeking full or joint custody of their children, and we fight for fair terms and conditions.
Stereotypes in Child Custody Cases
However, the reality regarding child custody in Montgomery County and Harris County is different from the law. But perceptions are changing, and fathers are gaining a more equal footing with mothers as time goes on.
That said, a father who is trying to get custody of a very young child from a mother who wants the child faces an uphill battle. The exception is when that mother presents some sort of risk to the child such as drugs, alcohol, neglect or abuse. Absent this, most judges are unlikely to remove a very young child from their mom. On the other hand, if the father can demonstrate that risk, most judges will do what they think is needed to protect the child, including giving custody to dad.
Can a custody order be modified?
Once a judgment is finalized, it is difficult to modify a child custody order but possible.
To modify a child custody order, it requires a material and substantial change of circumstances of a parent or the child or an expressed desire of a child 12 years of age or older, AND that the change is in the best interest of the child. A material and substantial change does not mean that dad now has a bigger place to live and his child can have his own room there. Nor does it mean that mom finished her drug rehab program and is ready for her child to move back home with her.
The Judge will want to see that moving this child is worth the disruption to their life and is in their best interest. Without some compelling reason, Judges usually like to leave kids where they are to minimize disruption of their lives.
If a child is 12 years of age or older, they may meet with the Judge to express their preference on where they live. The only way to express their preference is to the Judge in person. It is not a good idea to ask your child to write any statement about any issue in a case. This is not good for the child’s emotional well-being, and the Judge will not view you very favorably.
How does the Court Decide Which Parent is Should Be Awarded Primary Custody?
What happens if there is a case where things are more contested or where one parent is without question more responsible and more involved with meeting the child’s needs? For example, if dad doesn’t know the name of the home room teacher, doesn’t know the time that Johnny needs to get to soccer practice, doesn’t know the name of the doctor or the date of the child’s last checkup, and instead spends time in front of the television. with a six pack of beer, the Court may very likely give that parent little control over the child’s life and limit that parent’s rights and duties by giving mom greater decision-making power.
In other instances in which the case is very contested and it is not as clear-cut to the Court about who is in the better position to have control over these decisions for the child, you will need witnesses. Witnesses to the lives of the family will be very important.
In Texas, the issue of custody can be decided by a jury if one side requests one.
Who Can File for Custody of a Child in Texas?
Beside the biological parents of a child, other people can sometimes seek custody of children including:
• Aunts and Uncles
• Legal guardians
• Foster parents
• Residents that live[d] with the natural parent[s] of the child.
Do Child Abuse, Sexual Abuse, and Domestic Violence Affect Child Custody Decisions?
Yes, Family Courts in Texas take evidence of physical or sexual abuse into account when deciding between joint and sole custody and when deciding whether or under what circumstances non-custodial parents may visit their children. Evidence of abuse directed against the child, the other parent, another family member, or anyone under the age of 18 is also taken into a judge’s decision. ( see Texas Family Code Chapter 153 § 153.004).
If you have a custody dispute with a spouse or partner who was physically violent or sexually abusive, or who neglected the child, you should talk to an experienced child custody lawyer, who will know how best to present evidence to the court.
What is a SAPCR?
“SAPCR” (pronounced sap – ser) is a shorthand way of saying “Suit Affecting the Parent-Child Relationship” in Texas family law code. A SAPCR is a type of court case in Texas Family Court involving children. When you file an SAPCR, you are asking a judge to make an order about child custody, visitation, or support.
Do I have to file an SAPCR even if there is no custody dispute?
Yes, even if you and your spouse or partner agree about custody, you still need to file an SAPCR and go to court to get a judge’s approval before they can finalize the orders.
How Does Paternity Affect Child Custody?
You can file an SAPCR seeking child custody if you are the child’s parent. However, if paternity has not yet been legally established, you may need to file a paternity case instead. If you have any questions about this, please call our office. Our attorney is experienced with paternity cases and would be glad to talk to you.
Who Can File a SAPCR for Custody, Visitation, or Seeking Child Support?
In some circumstances, child custody can involve people other than the parents. These are some of the people who may be able to file an SAPCR —
- Other relatives, if neither parent is living, or if staying with the parents will significantly harm the child, or when the parents agree that other relatives should have custody
- In some circumstances, these people may also file for custody
- A foster parent
- A caretaker of the child
- Someone who lived with the child and the child’s parent or guardian
At the Law Offices of Diana Cavazos, we know that strong families come in many forms. Whether you are a parent, a grandparent, or someone with another relationship with the children whose custody you seek, our family law firm is ready to help.
How Do I Choose the Best Custody Lawyer for My Case?
There are a few qualities that you should look for when selecting the best custody lawyer for your case including:
• Experience with specific case issues (for example custody disputes, international custody, modifications, etc.)
• State Bar Status & Board Certification
Always ask how many cases the family attorney you’re interviewing has handled relating to your specific custody case. You will get a taste of the firm’s professionalism in their communication with you during the consultation. Most law firms offer consultations, take advantage of this and also make sure you know who is going to handle your case in court (the attorney you speak? An associate? A paralegal?)
Read online reviews to get a sense of the experiences other clients have had with the attorney. See if any other attorneys have endorsed their skills in family law. Finally, check to see that they are in good standing with the State Bar of Texas, whether there has been any disciplinary action taken against them, and whether they are board certified by the Texas Bar of Legal Specialization (only the best family law attorneys earn this distinction).
Experienced, Aggressive Child Custody Attorney – The Woodlands, Texas
Custody agreements are extremely important decisions that will affect your life, the lives of your children, and the life of your ex-spouse for many years to come. If you and your spouse or partner are unable to agree on a child custody and visitation plan, then you will need to work it out in Family Court. When child custody is in dispute, you should get the help of an experienced child custody attorney to help ensure that your interests are vigorously represented in court.
When you have an experienced custody lawyer on your side, you are giving yourself the best chance of getting the child custody and visitation outcome that you desire. Looking for an aggressive custody attorney in The Woodlands? We want to help you obtain the best solutions for your and your children’s future. Call now to schedule a phone consultation with the Law Office of Diana Cavazos. Need a Spanish speaking lawyer for your custody case? You found one! Se Habla Espanol.