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Aggressive Child Custody Defense – Jeff Anderson 25 Years of Experience

When access to your children is in jeopard or uncertain, you need a lawyer who will go to battle for you and your kids. You need Jeff Anderson on your side in Court. Schedule an appointment with our child custody attorney in Frisco, TX or our Dallas law office (whichever is more convenient for you). If you’d rather speak to a member of our law firm about your legal options, call (214) 273-2448 or request an appointment via the online form on this page.

IN CHILD CUSTODY CASES, HIRING AN EXPERIENCED ATTORNEY MATTERS

Child custody is the most important issue in many divorces, and one of the main reasons for lengthy contested divorce cases. When it comes to having access to your children, there is no decision more important than choosing a lawyer with experience in child custody. When it comes to custody, don’t settle for anything but the best legal counsel. Jeff Anderson is board certified in family law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization and has represented clients just like you in hundreds of custody battles.

What Custody Issues Do We Provide Legal Help For?

Texas Laws Regarding Child Custody

In Texas, a family Court judge has broad discretion regarding the outcome in most cases. With a few minor exceptions, the judge will make the ultimate decision when it comes to who the children will live with, when parents will get visitation, who will pay child support, and how much.

There are many important influences and factors playing a part in the rearing of a child in addition to just the parents: siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, teachers, coaches, mentors…the list is extensive. Truthfully, children do not typically grow up in isolation. In a child custody case, there can be a large cast of players affecting the outcome.

Acting in the Best Interest of the Child

In a child custody dispute, the court’s number one objective is determining what is in the child’s best interests as it relates to how the parent-child relationship will be constructed going forward.

The court will make a determination with respect to custody starting with who it designates as “conservators” of the child.

What’s the Difference Between Child Custody & Conservatorship?

Conservatorship is a term that the Texas Court uses instead of child custody,  describing a person with rights and duties with respect to a child (including a right to possession). Typically a child’s conservator is a parent of the child, but grandparents can have parental rights including custody, along with other family members or relatives.

However, there are instances when a conservator could be someone else, e.g. a grandparent, an uncle, etc. Therefore, the Courts of this state use the nomenclature “conservator” because it could represent a broad group.

Can the Court Enforce a Custody Order if a Parent Violates the Terms?

Yes, you can petition the court to enforce custody orders if the other parent is in violation. Also, if you are in danger of violating a custody order because you are the custodial parent and want to move or relocate, or a noncustodial parent who wants to prevent the children from relocating, there are things you need to know about Texas law and the process involved. Although there are no Texas statutes articulating standards specific to custodial parent relocation, there are general principles courts follow in deciding whether to grant or deny a petition for relocation or to enforce custody orders.

Can A Minor Be Required To Appear In Court During A Divorce?

Yes, anyone can be compelled to appear before a Court; giving testimony is another issue. A child can be called to testify or appear in family court in custody, divorce, or other cases.

If a person, minor or not, can understand the oath and answer questions, then he or she may be put on the stand. That does not mean a 7-year-old should be a witness, subject to examination and cross examination, and most Courts will look down upon the side that attempts to do such a thing.

If there is no other way to get the information that a child knows before the Court, then there are alternatives to putting him or her on the stand. For instance, a Motion may be filed requesting that the Judge speak to the child in chambers. If custody is at issue and the child is 12-years-old or older, then the Court is required to do so. If the child is under the age of 12, speaking to a child in chambers is discretionary.

Some Judges will also opt for having a child speak to a counselor or social worker, which will almost certainly allow for more comfortable surroundings.

In the end, an attorney determined to do so may put a child on the stand if that child can understand the oath. It may not be the best strategic move and it could cause the child some significant emotional distress, but our rules allow it.

Is it True that Mothers Usually Get Full Custody?

No, this notion is not true by statute. Pursuant to the Texas Family Code, the Courts are to make their determinations without regard to sex or marital status. However, this is a common misconception although stereotypes and skewed perception on the part of judges is not unheard of. After all, they are human beings too.

Many of us may still see certain things through a prism of past stereotype and dated social norms. People may think that because women carry the gestational burden and frequently follow a gender role norm as “nurturing caretaker” for a child that they would always be awarded primary custody of their children over the father regardless of other circumstances.

Here’s another myth to dispel: When you watch TV or movie drama, you will often hear a character state something along the lines of: “I fought for sole custody.” Well, in Texas “sole managing conservatorship” is something that could happen, but it’s not as common as joint custody. Sole managing conservatorship would provide that one parent would have the right to designate the primary residence of the child, make educational decisions, consent to medical treatment of the child, etc, all to the exclusion of the other parent. That means the other parent does not get a voice to such important decisions.

In Texas law the presumption is that both parents should, and will, play an active role in the daily lives of their child. No matter how badly you want to have your ex-spouse’s parental rights canceled, Texas family code makes that process difficult except in a few specific situations. The state of Texas has replaced the term ‘custody’ with the term ‘conservatorship’ in the Texas family law code. No matter where your child custody issues lie, an experienced Dallas child custody lawyer can help you find the correct approach to legally protect your relationship with your child.

Types of Custody in Texas Family Code

Texas Family Law Code defines different types of custody arrangements very specifically, with unique titles and documents for child custody cases in Texas. But don’t worry if you are unfamiliar with the lingo; as long as your custody attorney is well versed and experienced in child custody laws like Jeff Anderson you should be in good hands.

  • Joint Conservatorship, aka Joint Custody
  • Sole Managing Conservatorship aka Sole Custody
  • Possessory Conservator aka Non-custodial Parent
  • SAPCR aka Custody Lawsuit
  • Custody Modifications

What is Joint Conservatorship (Joint Custody)?

In Texas joint conservatorship means the same thing as joint custody. After a divorce, custody rights in Texas start with determining conservatorship. A child’s conservator is the parent who makes the child’s most important daily decisions. The conservator decides where the child attends school, if the child will play sports, which doctor they will see, and hundreds of other important issues in the child’s life.

The Courts in Texas are strongly inclined to deem both parents as joint conservators unless there is a specific and compelling reason as to why this would not be possible. Unless the court decides that circumstances make it extremely difficult or impossible for the parents to make important decisions together, joint conservatorship is likely.

What is Sole Managing Conservatorship (Sole Custody) in Texas?

Sole managing conservatorship is basically the same thing as sole custody in Texas. If there are difficult or impossible circumstances preventing joint custody, a Texas court will decide that one of the parents is the sole managing conservator. This means that the other parent will be the possessory conservator, or the parent with visitation rights. The child will almost certainly live with the parent with sole conservatorship and that parent will make all of the child’s important decisions.

What is a SAPCR?

In Texas, a lawsuit that involves the interest of a child is called a SAPCR, which stands for Suit Affecting the Parent-Child Relationship. Any couple that is separating and has a child together, whether or not they are married, will fall under a SAPCR. This is the process used to determine which parent will have custody of the child, and the specifics of parental responsibility moving forward including visitation, financial obligations, child support, visitation, etc. The guiding principle in Texas regarding family law cases with children is to always act in the best interest of the child.

Modifications To Child Custody in Texas

It is possible to change any child custody order. In addition, child support and child visitation orders modifications are possible as part of a divorce decree modification. The method by which such an order is changed is called a modification suit. Ultimately, to win such a modification, the parent seeking the change must show:

  • that there has been a material and substantial change in circumstances since the last order of the court or agreement of the parties and
  • that the requested change is in the child’s best interest.

If you think you qualify to modify child custody or would like to speak with an attorney and receive their professional opinion, give us a call.

Paternity Issues with Custody

In the case of unmarried parents, any dispute of child custody, child support and child visitation depends on the status of the father. Based on the dispute in question and the status of the father, the court will determine the next step. Establishing paternity through DNA testing is a popular choice, but sometimes paternity can be established by paperwork alone. Get in contact with us to learn more, and our attorneys can help you.

What are Domicile Restrictions?

Domicile restrictions are specific guidelines imposed by the parent without primary custody on where
the child or children can live. Although one parent may have the right to establish the residence of the children, that residence must be located within a certain geographic boundary. That boundary can be a school district, city, county, state or even country. Most often, the children’s residence is limited to a county or group of counties. Over the past several years, domicile restrictions have become more and more popular. However, every case does not necessarily require a domicile restriction.

WHAT IS THE UNIFORM CHILD CUSTODY JURISDICTION AND ENFORCEMENT ACT (UCCJEA)?

The UCCJEA is a uniformed code that clarifies the jurisdiction of child custody and visitation suits.

When one party files a suit in Texas and the other party files in another state, the UCCJEA tells us where the case is going to be handled. Code sections are adopted by individual states, so each state has adopted a form of the UCCJEA. They don’t all look exactly the same, but most are very similar. Put simply, a child custody or visitation case is filed in the “home state” of the child. The “home state” is where the child has lived for six months or longer, though brief periods of absence are counted as part of that six months. If the child hasn’t been living in a state for six months, then we look to the last state where the child lived for that period of time. If the child is less than six months old, then we look to the state where the child has resided since birth.

It is important to notice a distinction: the UCCJEA addresses jurisdictional issues for custody and visitation, but not child support. Jurisdiction for child support issues are governed by the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act (UIFSA).

So what do you do if you’re in Texas, your child’s home state is somewhere else, and there’s an emergency that needs to be handled right now . . . in Texas? The UCCJEA has an answer. If Texas doesn’t have jurisdiction because another state has it under the code, Texas can still exercise emergency jurisdiction on a temporary basis. This is like putting a Band-Aid on the problem until the Court of the proper jurisdiction can hear the issues and make a determination. This also means that if the proper state has already had a hearing, the emergency jurisdiction section of the UCCJEA will likely not be used to take temporary jurisdiction.

The reverse of all of this will also apply. If Texas is the proper state for jurisdiction, another state might be able to exercise emergency jurisdiction, but ultimately the case should be handled here.

How A DWI Can Effect Your Child Custody Chances During A Divorce

Whether you’re seeking joint or sole custody for the first time or are seeking to modify an existing visitation arrangement, you’ll be expected to demonstrate to a judge why granting custody or visitation to you is in your child’s best interest. Like other criminal convictions, a DWI can be a black mark against your character, and a recent DWI (or multiple convictions) can indicate a substance abuse problem that may also impact your perceived ability to care for your child. In addition, those whose driver’s license has been suspended (or permanently revoked) because of multiple DWI convictions can face an uphill battle when it comes to joint visitation; judges are often reluctant to place all the responsibility of visitation transportation on one parent.

However, the news isn’t all bad for those who have a DWI conviction. Because Texas treats conservatorship (often termed “custody” in other states) differently and separately from visitation, it’s possible to have visitation (and a regular physical connection with your child) even if your spouse is awarded sole conservatorship. The important thing is to be able to show that the circumstances leading up to your DWI conviction have changed and that you’re committed to remaining sober and being the best possible parent to your child.

What should you do if you’re concerned about the impact of your DWI convictions on a custody matter? 

There’s an additional wrinkle for those who were convicted of one or more DWIs in northern Texas, as it was recently discovered that a single lab worker may have mixed up multiple blood samples before or after testing, potentially leading to wrongful convictions (as well as mistaken exonerations) for thousands whose blood samples were processed there. You might also find out that the breath test you were given was faulty, inaccurate, or otherwise invalid. If your conviction falls within the time period at issue and there’s a chance your blood sample could have been processed at this facility, you may want to see whether you can have your final custody hearing postponed until you can determine the likelihood of your DWI conviction being vacated or overturned.

This unusual situation, along with other unique points of Texas law, is why it’s crucial to consult an experienced attorney who is familiar with the nuances that drunk driving charges cause during custody cases in Texas.

Contact An Experienced Child Custody Attorney in North Texas

Child custody disputes can be extremely difficult. There is nothing more important than the health, safety and development of your children. Jeff Anderson is an aggressive, strategic, and compassionate lawyer who has handled hundreds of local and international custody cases. He will help put your mind at ease by crafting an effective legal strategy that you agree with and fully understand. If you have any questions about child custody in Texas, contact Jeff Anderson today!

SEE ALSO

What is Contempt in Family Law?
Planning a Divorce with a Focus on Your Children’s Well-Being
Who Pays for Divorce in Texa?”