What factors are considered when negotiating a child custody arrangement?
When a couple makes the decision to file for divorce, several important issues must be figured out—including the
division of property, the allocation of
spousal support, and an appropriate child custody arrangement. Often times, the most heavily debated issue is that of child custody. In the state of Texas, a parent, or "conservator," may either be granted sole custody, joint custody, or visitation rights in lieu of a divorce and the court will make this decision based on:
- The best interests of the child
- A history of domestic abuse in the family
- A history of drug and/or alcohol abuse
- The testimony of the child—as long as they are 12 or older
Once this decision has been made, both parties are required to adhere to this legally binding custody contract. If either parent fails to uphold their end of the responsibilities, a court can enforce them to do so or even grant a modification to the agreement at the request of either party. Whether a parent has been awarded joint custody, sole custody or visitation rights, however, they maintain certain legal rights.
If a couple is awarded joint custody, they will both retain certain legal rights to make decisions in the interest of the child. This would be called a joint managing conservatorship, meaning that either parent has the right to make decisions regarding the child's education, health, and legal needs. In the case that one parent is named the primary joint managing conservator, however, they will be solely responsible for making decisions regarding where the child will live. They may also be entitled to receive monthly child support payments from the other parent.
When one parent is awarded a sole managing conservatorship, they will retain the responsibility of making all important decisions for their child—including matters regarding their health, education and legal needs, as well as where they will live. They will usually also be entitled to receive child support payments from the other parent. The non-custodial parent may still retain visitation rights, however.
When a non-custodial parent is awarded visitation rights, this is referred to as a possessory conservatorship. Although they cannot make decisions for their child, they will be allotted a certain amount of time with them. They may also be required to pay child support to the custodial parent. If the non-custodial parent has evidence to prove that the primary caretaker is not fit to retain sole custody, however, they can petition the court for a modification.
Deciding Child Custody & Visitation
Visitation rights can also require mediation and negotiation, as issues can come up such as the respective distance between the two parent's places of residence. If you require legal help in coming to a resolution in your child custody or visitation issue, it is highly recommended you contact a family law attorney today. The following suggestions may help you throughout the process of a custody battle or visitation negotiation:
- Try to turn the situation into a cooperative effort that considers the best interests of your child (their education, health, safety, comfort and happiness).
- Keep in mind that the court will favor allowing the child to remain in a familiar environment, and you must be able to demonstrate to the court that you can provide a safe and loving home.
- Remember that the decision is also up to your child, and the court will generally give preference to the child if they are 12 years of age or older.
Whether you are currently involved in a custody battle or would like to modify an existing custody arrangement, you should not hesitate to speak to experienced legal representation. An attorney may be able to help you to more effectively resolve any family-related issues that you may be facing.