A child custody battle is among the most stressful experiences a parent can endure. You want the best for your child, and the thought of losing time with them can be devastating.
Like most state courts, Texas courts generally assume that a joint custody arrangement that allows children to see both parents consistently is best for the children. However, the courts make exceptions in cases where an individual has shown themself to be an unfit parent through actions such as child abuse or substance abuse.
If you're engaged in a child custody battle, ensuring you build a good rapport with your attorney and a strong case for the court is vital. From what you should ask during your consultation to how you can prepare for your custody case, here's our list of tips for navigating a child custody case in Texas.
Bring a List of Questions to Your Consultation
Like most firms, our team here at Coker, Robb & Cannon, Family Lawyers, begins our relationships with potential clients through a consultation with a member of our team. Consultations allow you to vet attorneys and pick a law firm that matches your needs. Choosing a child custody lawyer who has experience applicable to your case and can share your overall approach to the matter can make all the difference, so don't take your consultation lightly!
Prepare a list of questions you have about the firm and the background of their attorneys (you can find out about our attorneys by looking at their biographies on our website). If you have one or two major concerns weighing you down, make sure to get them off your chest. The more prepared you are for your consultation, the better.
Prepare a List of Your Strengths and Weaknesses as a Parent (and do the Same for Your Ex)
Frequently, the most challenging part of the child custody process for parents is understanding how the court will view their case. You have a unique perspective on your relationship with your child and skills as a parent. The court wasn't there to watch you raise your child. They don’t see all the times you went out of your way to provide for them, or how you conduct yourself as a parent at home.
It's easy for parents to allow emotions and subjectivity to cloud their perception of their child custody battle. Unless your spouse has a record of actions that make them unfit to be a parent, the court will view both parents on equal ground and consider joint custody whenever possible. They may not see the case the same way as you, and it's important to acknowledge that and be prepared to see the case from your spouse’s and the court’s points of view.
To help you approach the case as logically as possible, prepare a list of your strengths and weaknesses as a parent. Be brutally honest. Then, do the same for your ex. Try to remove your emotions from the process as much as possible. These lists can help you understand how the court will really see your case and prepare a stronger case for the court.
Ask Your Attorney for a Candid Opinion Frequently
Your attorney has crucial legal experience navigating child custody cases and your local court system—don't let it go to waste! Most attorneys are familiar with their local court system and can give you valuable information on the preferences of your local judge (what they look for in a case, likes and dislikes, etc.).
Remember, your attorney is your advocate. If they tell you that they think your case is weak or you may not receive the custody arrangement you want, don't see it as a personal attack on your parenting skills or an indictment of your attorney's capabilities. Take their input seriously, and work with them to patch up weaknesses in your case.
Your attorney is there to fight for your parental rights, but it's essential for parents to realize their value as objective legal professionals as well. Your attorney can provide invaluable input for how you should conduct yourself in court and can help you temper your expectations if necessary.
Draft a Comprehensive Parenting Plan
Prior to finalizing your case, the court will prefer for both parents to work together to create a parenting plan that includes items such as how much time the children spend with each parent, where to exchange custody, stipulations about religion and education, etc.
Start working proactively on a parenting plan now, and think about the details such as locations for exchanges, each parent’s work schedule, and extracurricular activities for your children. Then you can work with your attorney to prepare a realistic parenting plan to propose or work toward.
As you work, think about what elements of the parenting plan you consider negotiable, and what elements you consider non-negotiable. For example, maybe you would prefer to have the children every weekend, but are fine with having them every other weekend if necessary. However, you absolutely want the children to spend at least half of each major holiday (Thanksgiving, Christmas, etc.) with you if at all possible. Put those details in the parenting plan and discuss the feasibility of your goals with your attorney
Be Aware of Best Practices for Child Custody Cases
The last thing you want to do during a possible litigation battle is to conduct yourself unfavorably in the eyes of the court. You should be aware that taking specific actions, such as talking badly about your ex in front of your children or refusing to cooperate with your ex on a parenting plan, may reflect poorly on you in the eyes of the court.
Ask your attorney what you can do to present yourself well to the court, and then follow through . If you’ve already found yourself on the Judge’s “bad side”, talk to your attorney about options, such as a custody evaluation or a jury trial, that might help turn your case around and get a different outcome for your case.
Make Sure You Have Documents Ready Ahead of Time
Consult your attorney to understand what documents you should prepare for the court. In custody cases, courts may want to see a variety of information, including the income of both parties, financial records, background information, and communications between the parties. Preparing these documents ahead of time will streamline the process for you and allow you to avoid scrambling for documents at the last minute.
Being proactive during your child custody case can help you approach the custody process with confidence, defend your parental rights, and pursue your children's best interests.
If you have questions or concerns about your custody case, we'd love to help! To learn more, contact us online or via phone at (940) 293-2313