Most parents involved in a Houston, TX divorce want to avoid a lengthy custody battle. However, this can be a big challenge when both parties would like to be the primary caregiver of the children. If you’re in this situation, you might wonder what factors affect the court’s decision to grant either joint or sole custody and to make one party the custodial parent.
Although the child’s wishes can be taken into consideration depending on the age, this isn’t the only thing that matters. The judge will determine the best arrangement by factoring in a wide range of points such as who was the primary caregiver, how safe and stable the home is, what the child’s needs are, and how to best keep the siblings together. Let’s have a closer look at what you can expect and how you can protect your rights.
Can a Child Influence the Custody Battle in Houston, TX?
Whether your child has said that they want to live with you or with your spouse, you’ll want to know what this means for your divorce case. Does your child’s opinion matter when it comes to this important issue, or is it up to the adults to make an informed decision? It all depends on how exactly your divorce is settled and the age of your child at the time of the divorce.
As a general rule, only children aged 12 and up can speak up in court about which parent they would like to live with. What’s more, this will only be taken into consideration, and it won’t be used as the sole factor to determine your child’s future home.
Settling Out of Court
Sometimes, settling out of court can be a much better option because it is less stressful, quicker, and less expensive. If you can, try to negotiate with your spouse, and figure out a way forward together. Generally, everyone has the best interests of the children in mind, so it’s important to consider what they want, even if they are younger than 12.
For example, if one of the spouses will remain in the family home, it can make sense that the children stay there, as well. That way, there will be minimal disruption and they can grow up with their school friends as planned. In such a situation, the children might say they would like to stay, and your lawyer or your mediator will most likely tell you to take this into account and act according to the children’s best interests.
Going to Court
Sometimes, it isn’t possible to come to an easy agreement that everyone is happy with, and the family will need to go to court. Unless your child is 12 years old or above, their opinion won’t count, and the judge will make a decision based on a number of different factors. Joint custody is usually preferred, so you’re unlikely to be denied access to your children, no matter what happens.
If your child is over 12, they can say where they would prefer to live, and this might be taken into consideration. However, because they aren’t yet an adult and not able to make such an important decision on their own, all the other factors will still be looked at.
What Other Factors Affect the Decision?
Now that you know that your child can’t fully decide who should receive custody, you might wonder what these additional factors are. There are a number of different ones, and they all aim to provide the child with the safest and most stable home possible. As mentioned, both parents are likely to be granted access, but the primary home of the child will be determined by which person can best meet their needs.
Who Was the Primary Caregiver
Some parents split the childcare duties evenly, but in many families, one person remains at home with the child, while the other spouse goes to work. The amount of time you have spent with your children before the divorce will be examined, and if you’re not the primary caregiver, you’re less likely to be the custodial parent after your divorce. This is because most judges agree that the less the child’s routine changes, the better.
Stability of the Home
To thrive, children need a stable and loving home. Before granting you custody, your ability to provide this will be examined. Factors such as predictability, routine, and continuity are all important, and they allow children to develop more self-confidence. What’s more, they are likely to perform better at school if their home environment feels safe and constant.
The Child’s Needs
Every child has different needs, and they will be examined before the Houston, TX judge reaches a decision about your custody battle. One of those is continuity, so you are more likely to become the custodial parent if you will remain in the same geographical area or even in the same home. That way, your children can keep attending the same school and activities.
Some minors also have additional needs, especially if they have physical or mental health issues. In such a situation, your experience in dealing with your child’s condition will also be factored in, and you will need to prove that you can provide them with everything they need and keep them safe. Most of the time, the parent with more time available to spend with the children is more likely to get custody.
The Child’s Safety
Unfortunately, not every parent is a safe choice, and past issues will be looked at very closely. This could include incidences of domestic violence, drug or alcohol abuse, or time spent in jail. The safety and security of any children involved is paramount to the court, and you will have great difficulty gaining custody if you have had a problem providing a safe environment in the past.
The best thing you can do in such a situation is to comply with all the court’s rules, such as courses or classes you have to take. You may be able to spend time with your children, but it’s unlikely that you’ll be the custodial parent. However, a great family law lawyer can advise you more competently and let you know what to expect.
Keeping Siblings Together
Even if one of your children is over 12 and speaks out about where they would like to live, the judge might overrule this if there are siblings who are going to stay at the other parent’s house. One of the priorities is keeping siblings together, so it’s most likely that you will be the custodial parent for either all your children or for none of them.
Determining custody can be a big challenge, particularly if both parents would like to be the primary caregiver of their children. If your child is over 12, they are likely to be given a voice and allowed to make a choice about where they live. Nevertheless, many other factors will also be taken into consideration, and just because a child chooses a given parent doesn’t mean that this person will get sole custody.
The best way to protect your rights during a custody battle in Houston, TX is to speak to a competent family law lawyer who has worked with similar situations before. Call us now at Skillern Law to book your initial consultation with one of our top attorneys. We can let you know what will influence the custody decision and how you can maximize your situation to get the best outcome possible.