Divorces or separations are already complicated enough when each spouse has a right to a certain amount of shared property. When a divorced couple has children, additional legal actions will need to be taken. Child custody cases in Houston, TX can be long, strung-out battles, so it’s important for you to understand certain facts about these cases so you can be prepared for the long haul.
How Long Do Child Custody Cases in Houston, TX Usually Last?
In Texas, parents have six to 12 months from the date of filing to reach an agreement for shared child custody. If the parents fail to reach such an agreement, or if certain circumstances render the agreement inappropriate, then the custody case will be taken to a family law court. A trial for child custody can take days, weeks, or even months, particularly when the case is contested by either parent.
In the end, it’s likely a judge will look over the information and documents provided by each parent’s legal representation to determine which parent should be awarded custody. In some cases, a jury may decide which parent will have custody of the child. Once a decision has been reached, the judge will sign final orders that will outline custody, visitation, and other orders,
What Factors Determine Who Wins Custody?
Although child custody cases may take up to a year or more to reach a settlement, particularly if the court is involved, there are specific components of a custody battle that may affect the speed of the case. For example, if there is a definite advantage one parent has in their ability to take care of the child(ren), then this will likely speed up the decision of the judge or the settlement reached between legal representatives. Some of these factors include:
In some Texas courts, unmarried women with children are automatically given custody of their children. This law is true for women who have been divorced and women who have never been married. The only way a father can fight to gain sole custody of a child or shared custody is if he can establish paternity. From there, the custody case will be completed through the legal system. While the court is deciding on sole custody, the child or children will likely remain with the mother.
That said, courts are not supposed to favor the mother or the father. It’s the job of the family court to determine which parent is the best primary caregiver for the child based on evidence and the best interests of the child. If you feel that one parent has been favored in your custody case, then you may require further legal assistance.
By far, the wellbeing of the child is the most important factor considered by the court in custody cases. Family court prioritizes the best interests of the child and will consider a wide variety of evidence provided by each party to determine which parent has the best resources for childcare. Some of these factors include the ability to provide for physical and emotional needs, the stability of the home, and the ability to provide for the child.
Courts will also look at evidence about the parenting skills for each parent, any cooperation between the parents, and who has been the child’s primary caregiver for the majority of the child’s life. Factors such a geographic location, siblings, and the fitness of the parent may affect the final decision in your custody case.
After a child is 12, their preferences may matter to the court. Although the final orders of a custody case will not be decided fully by the child’s preference for their primary caregiver, the court will place some importance on this preference. The child’s preference for their primary caregiver may affect the visitation orders or other factors related to the parenting plan.
How Can You Improve Your Chances of Gaining Custody?
If you want to have primary custody or larger custody of your child, then you may need to prove to the court you are a fit caregiver for the child. This is a common task for fathers who want custody or mothers who are trying to retain custody. There are several things you and your legal team can do to increase your chances of gaining more custody of the child.
For example, you may need to show the court that you exercise your visitation rights or that you provide for the child’s needs on a daily basis. Courts prefer parents to establish a stable and competent role as a caregiver. You will need to document your visitation dates and activities to provide evidence for the courts.
Will Your Custody Case End With Child Support?
It’s very likely that your custody case will result in either parent paying child support. Generally, child support is paid by the parent who does not have custody of the child or children. Child support is intended to provide for the needs of the child, such as:
- Medical and dental care
- Some extracurricular activities
Most child custody cases have a child support agreement included in the final order, along with visitation allowances. Each parent is expected to provide equal support for the child’s minimum expenses. If there are multiple children shared between parents, then child support will be calculated for the minimum expenses for each child. How child support payments are allocated for the care of the child is determined by the custodial parent.
What Determines Child Support Amount?
The amount owed to you for child support is calculated based on the salary of the other parent. In Texas, a standard calculator is used to determine the amount of child support. The general rule is that one child is equal to 20% of the net monthly income of the parent who does not have full custody of the child. Two children will require 25% net monthly income, three children 30% net monthly income, and so on.
What this means is that there is no set amount for child support. The amount of child support owed each month is determined by your individual salary. If your job changes, then the child support you owe will be recalculated. You will need to keep the court updated on your income until the child is 18 and you no longer need to provide child support.
How Is Visitation Determined?
Visitation, or “possession and access”, is determined by a number of factors related to the schedule of the parents and the court’s determination that the parent who needs visitation can provide for the needs of the child when the child is away from the primary caregiver. In other words, much of the evidence used to determine the amount of custody you are awarded will be used to determine visitation schedules.
Child custody cases can take several months to complete, both inside and outside of court trials. In general, it’s ideal if you and your ex-spouse or the other parent of the child can come to a custody agreement without involving the court. However, if the court is involved, be prepared to provide evidence for why you should be the sole custodian of the child. For more information about your child custody case, please contact Skillern Firm in Houston, TX.