CHILD CUSTODY AND VISITATION LITIGATION

Helping you protect your rights as a parent of your child

CHILD CUSTODY AND VISITATION ATTORNEY

The most critical part of any relationship is the one between a parent and a child. Getting caught in a child custody dispute can adversely affect this relationship. Laforest Law Firm can help parents navigate even the most complicated child custody and child visitation issues.

Suit Affecting the Parent Child Relationship

In Texas, the family law suit involving minor children is known as a SAPCR, or “Suit Affecting the Parent Child Relationship”. In a SAPCR, the court will decide matters such as:

  • The rights and duties of a parent, grandparent, or other caretaker
  • The periods of possession and access of a child
  • Child support
  • Healthcare coverage and medical support

A SAPCR can also be filed in court to acquire or enforce support of a child. A SAPCR can also be brought to court to terminate a parent-child relationship.

A court will typically define the rights and duties of a parent, grandparent, or other caretaker by designating him or her as a managing conservator of the child. A managing conservator is a person who has a certain set of rights and duties with respect to the upbringing of the child. These rights can include:

  • The right to designate the child’s primary residence
  • The right to the child’s services & earnings
  • The right to make decisions about the child’s education,
  • The right to consent to the child’s marriage or military enlistment
  • The right to consent to the child’s medical treatment/care
  • The right to receive child support & disburse it for the child’s benefit
  • The right to make other legal decisions concerning the child.

The duties of a conservator include:

  • The duty of care, control, protection, and reasonable discipline of the child
  • The duty to support the child
  • The right to consent for the child to medical and dental care
  • The right to direct the moral and religious training of the child

Joint Managing Conservatorships

A court has the power to determine whether a person will be a sole managing conservator, and have the rights and duties exclusively, or be a joint managing conservator and share those rights and duties with others.  In designating a person as a managing conservator, the courts will determine whether it will be in the best interest of the child. Courts rely on a number of factors in doing this, such as the physical or emotional needs of the child, parental ability, stability of the home environment, and the person’s plans for and opportunities for the child.

Courts will take into account negative factors as well, such as a person’s intentional use of force against a spouse, or the other parent, in the preceding two years, or any acts showing a person to be less fit than another potential conservator. Evidence of past domestic violence, or false reports of domestic violence, may also be considered.

In Texas, there is usually a presumption that parents should be designated as joint managing conservators. In designating persons as joint managing conservators, the courts often look at other specific factors, such as:

  • Whether the child’s physical, psychological, or emotional needs will benefits
  • The ability of both parents to reach shared decisions
  • The level of participation of both parents in the child’s life before the SAPCR
  • Any evidence of a history or pattern of physical / emotional abuse

One common misconception is that the appointment of a joint managing conservator means that the period of custody of the child is split. This is inaccurate. Joint managing conservatorships rarely result in an even split of custody. Instead, what courts often do is designate one joint managing conservator as the one with the power to designate the primary residence of the child, and issue a possession order to govern the possession and access of the child by the other conservator.

Deciding which parent has the power to designate the primary residence if oftentimes the most contentious part in child custody disputes. The courts look to various factors when making it’s decision. One thing is certain – there is no presumption that a child should be raised by the mother (or father). Texas has done away with presumptions based on gender or marital status.

Despite this, there is a presumption that a parent should be designated as a managing conservator. In fact, Texas law provides that a parent must be appointed either sole managing conservator, or both parents as joint managing conservators, unless the court finds that it is not in the child’s best interest because it would substantially impair the child’s physical health or emotional well-being.

Child Visitation

In Texas, courts will oftentimes order visitation in accordance with a standard possession order. The standard possession order shows when the parent who does not have primary, or the non-custodial parent, gets access and possession to the child. If the parents live less than 100 miles apart, a non-custodial parent gets access and possession to the child (1) every first, third, and fifth weekend of the month, (2) from 6pm to 8pm every Thursday, and (3) thirty days during the summer. However, if the parents live more than 100 miles apart, the non-custodial parent has the choice of selecting either the first, third, and fifth weekends of a month, or can pick any weekend in a month for visitation with notice to the other parent. Weekends usually mean from 6pm on Friday to 6pm on the following Sunday.

To achieve an alternate visitation schedule, parents have to reach an agreement, or the court must find that the standard possession order is not in the child’s best interest. In situations where the child is less than three years old, however, the courts can apply a more flexible visitation schedule for the child.

Hansary Laforest works hard to help people achieve the best results in child custody and visitation disputes. His law practice focuses on helping people understand the process of child custody and visitation. Whether you want to bring a new SAPCR, or you’re seeking to modify and enforce an previous order, Hansary can help you achieve an outcome that works for you and your child.