The fact that many of us would give anything for our children means that child custody cases are can be some of the most contentious conflicts within the legal industry. Indeed, a poorly prepared child custody strategy can leave parents feeling helpless and emotional drained. In Cedar Park, child custody cases fall under the purview of several authorities, including Williamson County Local Rules, Travis County Local Rules, the state’s Third Court of Appeals, and even the Texas Supreme Court. The maze of state statutes and court precedent can make the child custody process extremely difficult to navigate without the advice of an experienced family law lawyer. As with many matters, knowledge is key, so if you would like to increase your understanding of the child custody process in Cedar Park, please continue reading below for a brief overview of some of its most important aspects.
The Best Interest of the Child
When faced with determinations about the custody of children, courts will focus their inquiry on the child’s best interest.
But how do courts determine what is in the child’s best interest? In the seminal case Holley v. Adams
, the Texas Supreme Court delineated nine factors for courts to consider when issuing decisions in child custody suits. Each factor enjoys equal weight in custody determinations, however, in some cases a single factor may determine the outcome of the case. Without regard to importance, the factors are:
- The child’s desired outcome.
- The child’s emotional and physical needs.
- Protentional emotional or physical dangers to the child.
- The quality of parenting by those seeking custody.
- The availability of programs to assist the promotion of the best interests of the child for those seeking custody.
- The future plans of those seeking custody.
- The stability of the proposed home or placement facility.
- Any evidence that could point to an improper parent-child relationship.
- Any excuses for evidence of an improper parent-child relationship.
Courts take child custody decisions very seriously. As such, it is important to engage in frank discussions with your legal team to address anything that might implicate one of the court’s nine factors. Doing so will put the court in the best position to deliver a positive outcome.
Types of Child Custody
Sole Managing Conservator
The sole managing conservator status provides, by far, the greatest amount of control over decisions relating to the child’s daily life. One of the powers enjoyed by sole managing conservators is the exclusive right to determine the primary residence of the child. Additionally, sole managing conservators can independently consent to any medical or psychological treatments for the child, and have the right to receive child support payments from the other parent. While many parents would enjoy the rights enjoyed by sole managing conservators, courts generally only grant this status under particular circumstances.
Joint Managing Conservator
In contrast to sole managing conservators, who have much independence when making decisions relating to the child, joint managing conservators share the parent rights and responsibilities with each other. In Cedar Park, this is the most common form of conservatorship granted by the courts. In recent years, courts have come to believe that input from both parents is generally in the best interest of the child. Even though both parents may enjoy joint managing conservator status their rights and responsibilities may be split to separate aspects of the child’s life. For example, one parent may have the exclusive right to choose the primary residence of the child, while the other parent holds the right to decide medical decisions for the child. Joint managing conservators may also have disproportionate possession times, with one parent having a longer period of possession than the other. Even though differences is rights may exists, they all must be in the child’s best interest.
In some cases, the court may assign a possessory conservator. This is an individual who, though not necessarily a parent of the child, may nonetheless have a right to possession during specified periods of time or pursuant to certain conditions. Common possessory conservators include one of the child’s grandparents. During a possessory conservator’s possession periods, he or she will retain the same parental rights as the other conservatorship.
Agreed Parenting Plan
In many cases, courts realize that the children at issue are best served when both parents play active roles in the child’s upbringing. In those situations, the courts serving Cedar Park can order an Agreed Parenting Plan in which both parents have joint managing conservator status. As the name implies, Agreed Parenting Plans are drafted by both parents. Once a plan has been developed by the parents it must undergo a review by the court, which will require the following:
- The plan must either specify which of the joint managing conservator will have the right to determine the child’s primary residence; or else include a provision that restricts the child’s primary residence to a certain geographic area (generally, a county);
- If the plan grants one of the joint managing conservators the right to designate the child’s primary residence, then the plan must either (1) restrict that right to a geographic area; or (2) state that the conservator has full authority to determine the child’s primary residence;
- The plan must clearly list the rights and obligations of both joint managing conservators;
- The plan must minimize any disruptions to the child’s daily routine, association with friends, and schooling;
- The plan must divide between the joint managing conservators any and all remaining rights, either solely, concurrently, or jointly.
- Both joint managing conservators must agree to the plan voluntarily; and
- The plan must be, as always, in the child’s best interest.
Contact a Cedar Park Child Custody Attorney Today
Have more questions? If you would like to discuss your child custody options with a family law lawyer, contact Kirker | Davis LLP
to schedule a consultation with an experienced Cedar Park attorney today.