Divorce is always an emotional and difficult time, especially when children are involved.
As a parent, it can be frightening not knowing who may be awarded custody of your child. Don’t go into any custody battle unprepared. Get legal advice from your child custody attorney and make sure you understand child custody rights and how to improve the odds in obtaining the outcome you desire.
The Texas Family Code presumes that standard visitation is basically every other weekend and Thursdays of each week for the non-custodial parent. This is presumed to be what is in the best interest of the child. So, it’s safe to say a 50/50 custody schedule is not the norm in the state of Texas, and the only way this may be established is by agreement of both parents.
Best Interest of the Child
In Texas, the courts are always going to do what is in the best interest of the child when deciding custody. To determine what is in the best interest of your child, the court will look at various factors. They include:
1. Your parenting skills
2. Living arrangements
3. The age of your child
4. Consistent routines and the impact of changing your child’s routine
5. Mental health of both parents
6. Your child’s school and extracurricular activities
7. Whether one parent may be a danger to your child
8. Healthcare providers
9. Any other factors that impact your individual case
Tips on Winning Your Custody Battle
There are various actions you can take to help yourself when it comes to battling for custody of your child in Texas. Some of them are listed below, including:
1. Minimize Your Child’s Exposure to the Case
Divorce is hard on everyone involved, especially your children. It’s important that you don’t talk about the divorce or impending child custody battle in front of your children. It’s equally important that you don’t talk negatively about the other parent in front of your children.
Additionally, unless the court orders it, never bring your child to court with you. There is no reason to expose them to that situation. Don’t ever fight with your ex-spouse in front of the children.
Children have a unique way of taking a negative situation and blaming themselves for you and your ex-spouse fighting. They are already experiencing enough turmoil in their lives because of the divorce, and you should do whatever you can to minimize their stress during this difficult time.
2. Fight for the Right Reason
Taking yourself and your ex-spouse out of the equation, sit down and really think about what is in the best interest of your child, and make sure you are fighting for the right reasons.
While you may not like your ex-spouse, they are still a parent to your child, and that parent has the same rights as you do when it comes to your child. Think about whether you and your ex-spouse are fighting about parenting styles. Just because your parenting style may be different than your ex-spouse’s, this doesn’t mean the Texas court is going to view your ex-spouse’s parenting style as bad.
Protecting your child from an abusive parent or a parent who has a drug and/or alcohol problem is a good reason to fight. Fighting for custody to gain leverage over your ex-spouse is not a good reason to fight. Also, you should never fight for custody of your child in an attempt to hurt your ex-spouse.
3. Control Yourself
Your behavior both in and out of court may have a large impact on who the Texas courts decide should have custody of your child. Because of this, it’s important to control your behavior at all times. For example:
- Never send mean or hateful text messages, emails, or telephone calls to your ex-spouse. This is childish behavior and will not work in your favor when it comes to the Texas court awarding custody of your child.
- Stay off social media. Anything you post can and will be used against you in a Texas court when it comes to determining who will have custody of your child.
- Always conduct yourself properly. This means not having a temper tantrum inside or outside the Texas courtroom. Court officials can be anywhere, so always control your frustration and temper until you are in private.
The Texas Family Code expressly encourages both parents to have a relationship with their child. If you are in any way interfering with that relationship, then the Texas court will take those actions into consideration when deciding custody of your child.
4. Don’t Engage in Parental Alienation or Made Up Allegations
The Texas courts will consider if you’ve been attempting to alienate your ex-spouse from your child, and their opinion may not be in your favor. A lie about your ex-spouse could end up hurting your chances of winning custody of your child in Texas courts.
You may not like your ex-spouse, but they are still the other parent of your child. If you attempt to alienate your children from your ex-spouse in any way, the Texas courts may not rule in your favor.
5. Don’t Move in with Anyone
Many family courts in Texas will put a standing order in place, which automatically includes a morality clause. In a nutshell, a morality clause means you aren’t allowed to have anyone you have a romantic relationship with spend the night when you have your child.
Violation of the standing order containing a morality clause could have serious consequences in Texas family courts.
6. Work to Make a Good Impression
You should attempt to make a good impression on anyone you meet anywhere inside a Texas courthouse. This includes the judge, mediator, or anyone else involved in your case. Don’t let anyone hear you blow off steam in the courthouse, even in the hallway or bathroom.
The people involved with your case, such as the judge or anyone else, can affect you and your child’s life, because many of these people will have an impact on when and how often you may see your child, whether you have any rights to make parental decisions, and where your child will be living.
7. Stay Involved With Your Child
You should meet your child’s teachers and attend all school conferences. If your child has to go to the doctor, go with them.
It’s also important that you know what activities your child is involved in and attend them. Bond with their friends and engage in as many activities with your child as you can.
It’s important that you keep a record of what you do in your child’s daily life. Show that you’re involved as a parent by getting together pictures and souvenirs from any vacations you’ve taken with your children.
Keep track of when you and your ex-spouse have visitation with your child, and when you or your ex-spouse failed to exercise visitation or switched visitation schedules.
Keep track of who has your child on holidays.
The easiest way to do this is to keep a calendar and write down everything you do with your child, and what you spend on your child.
Additionally, you should work to strengthen your support network of relatives, friends, your child’s teacher, neighbors, or anyone who can be a witness to how you conduct yourself as a parent.
If you’re the father, you should pay child support payments whether through a court order or informally between you and your spouse, and pay them on time every month.
Maintaining an appropriate lifestyle and proper home environment for your child may help you win a custody battle. While the divorce and custody battle are going on, you should also take the time to take care of yourself physically, mentally, and emotionally, and make choices that show healthy parenting.
The bottom line is that engaging with your ex-spouse in a custody battle will very likely cause you and your child pain, and the process can be expensive. You and your ex-spouse can try alternative methods such as mediation, where you both can come up with a plan that works not only for the both of you, but is in the best interest of your child. It is in your best interest to try to settle out of court, since it gives you more control of the custody dispute’s outcome, and if you don’t like what is being offered, you still have the option of going to court and having a trial.
In cases where custody is disputed, you should have a skilled attorney by your side who specializes in child custody. If your child’s custody is part of your divorce, you should know that not all divorce attorneys specialize in child custody. It would be in your best interest to find an attorney who does. It may not be in your best interest to represent yourself in a custody battle; rather, use an attorney who specializes in child custody disputes.