Divorce cases are rarely easy. The time and attention required and the amount of stress accompanying the shift in lifestyle are enough to give pause to the most stoic among us. This is especially true for divorce cases that involve child custody contests.
If you anticipate, or are in the process of, pursuing a child custody claim in Georgetown, you will almost certainly fall under the authority of numerous county, state, and local court rules. Navigating the Williamson County Local Rules, the state’s Third Court of Appeals, the Texas Supreme Court, and various other authorities can be a difficult task without qualified attorneys guiding the way. In this brief overview, we will outline some strategies for approaching Georgetown custody cases and a few key considerations when engaging with Williamson County courts.
The Texas Family Code requires courts to consider the child’s best interest as the primary factor in all child custody case decisions.
Even though the language of the statute is clear, it provides no guidance on what factors courts should consider when determining the child’s best interests or how heavily those factors should weigh against each other.
Divergent approaches to develop a Best Interest Test by courts across the state prompted the need for a unified method. In the seminal case, Holley v. Adams, the Texas Supreme Court ordered courts to consider nine factors when determining the child’s best interest. Today, Georgetown courts use the Holley Factors as a checklist when determining what is in the child’s best interest. These factors are:
As courts are required to consider the nine factors listed above, take some time to analyze them with your lawyer when developing legal arguments to support your position.
Sole managing conservators, generally have the exclusive right to determine the child’s primary residence, the right to consent to various medical and psychological treatments, the right to receive periodic child support payments, the right to make decisions about the child’s education, and more. As the name implies, sole managing conservators have the most control over decisions that affect the child’s day-to-day life. Parents that do not obtain sole managing conservator status will have significantly less authority to make decisions regarding their child.
Joint managing conservators share the rights and responsibilities of raising the child with the other party. Typically, both parents will be named joint managing conservators, with decision types split between them. Many courts understand the benefits that shared decision-making can have on a child’s development. Consequently, this type of conservatorship is the most common of conservatorships granted by Georgetown courts and is usually presumed to be in the best interest of the child. As we briefly mentioned above, decision types are often split between joint managing conservators. For example, it is common for courts to grant one conservator to have the exclusive right to designate the child’s primary residence, or to limit a conservator’s choice of residence to a particular geographic region. Similarly, possession periods for joint managing conservators may not necessarily be an equal 50/50 split. Instead, one parent may receive a greater period of possession by the Court if it is determined to be in the child’s best interest due to their familial structure.
Courts can also accommodate family structures that diverge from the traditional, nuclear family unit. Possessory conservators are individuals who may not be one of the child’s parents, but nonetheless may have the right to possess the child during specified periods of time and under certain conditions. A common possessory conservator is the child’s grandparent. Possessory conservators have the same parental rights as other conservatorships during their period of possession.
Georgetown courts routinely encourage joint managing conservators to accept agreed parenting plans. An agreed parenting plan is a document which is created—collaboratively—between joint managing conservators. However, agreed parenting plans must meet the following requirements:
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