What Should I Know Before a Custody Trial in Texas
One of the most important concerns for any couple facing divorce is the well-being of their children. Like most aspects of family law, it is often helpful for parents to reach agreements on various aspects of their lives. However, whether agreed upon or enforced, the legal role of each parent will be defined by a child custody hearing.
The legal process can be long and complicated. The nature of child custody means that it typically happens when parents have other factors to deal with alongside custody, such as property division.
There is much to consider, and relatively little time, given that a custody arrangement handed down by a Judge is typically final. That is why parents should seek expert support, and at Skillern Firm, we’re standing by to help you make the right decisions quickly and effectively.
Speak to a Family Law Specialist from Skillern Firm Today
A custody battle can rank among the most challenging experiences of any parent’s life, so it is vital to have the correct support in place. Given the legal implications of custody trials, that means speaking to a lawyer with specialist knowledge and expertise.
That’s precisely what you can expect from the team at Skillern Firm. Our attorneys have worked with parents extensively across all manner of child custody cases, ensuring that their parental rights are respected and that clients understand how Texas law drives and informs the decisions they make.
The Judge’s decision is final in custody trials, so there is no margin for error. You need an attorney that can provide support, help you through stressful experiences and build a winning case. Our team is standing by now to help you make that happen, so call our Houston, Texas offices now at 936-213-8479.
Always Remember to Put the Child First
Before any child custody trial takes place, it is vital always to consider the child’s wellbeing. Children cannot choose which parent they wish to live with until they reach 12 years of age. At this point, a Judge will consider the child’s wishes when reaching their decision, although it is by no means the only determining factor.
Every child custody case will consider the parent-child relationship, and those relationships will factor into the final decision. In some cases, it is clear that one parent is more likely to serve the best interest of the child than the other parent.
For example, in cases involving child abuse, domestic violence, or substance abuse, the parent that is not responsible for any such concerns holds an advantage in front of a Judge.
However, in more complex cases where it is more difficult to tell which parent is more suitable for the child’s best interests, there is more to consider. A skilled attorney can help provide evidence that helps a Judge decide which parent is most suitable to receive custody.
Also, consider that the ability of parents to cooperate can influence the custody process. It is important to remember that while a child custody battle may not be pleasant, the interested parties will both remain parents, even when they are no longer spouses. If it can be proven that one parent is more inclined to cooperate than the other, that may serve them well as they attempt to win child custody.
Preparing for a Child Custody Case
A family law attorney can make all the difference in custody cases, and if you want to ensure you stand the best possible chance of success, no matter your goals, that should be the first step you take. Alongside the inherent pressure of determining what’s best for family members, child custody laws can be complex. Building a winning case, whether seeking sole custody, joint custody, or any other outcome, can hinge on receiving the correct advice as soon as possible.
With legal representation in place, a parent can then look to take additional steps ahead of child custody hearings, all with the full support and guidance of their attorney.
Try to Remain Cooperative and Maintain the Parent-Child Relationship
Keeping an open mind toward your former spouse can pay dividends during the custody process. As noted above, efforts to put aside any animosity to clearly pursue the best interests of children can make a huge difference when the Judge makes their decision in court.
Beyond this, it can be better to compromise with your former partner before the case even reaches court. Your attorney will answer questions about when and how you might consider increasing or reducing your demands involving your child. The primary consideration is that an agreement laden with compromises may still be superior to what a Judge may decide.
No matter what happens during the process, always remember to prioritize your relationship with the child, and always try to minimize their exposure to the more difficult aspects of the divorce. A Judge will always look particularly favorably on a parent that puts their child first, no matter the circumstances.
Compile Relevant Documentation
Like most processes that may end up in court, a child custody hearing may be determined by documentation and further evidence to back up claims. Even before the hearing begins, you will need to file papers with the court outlining what you would like to achieve.
This represents another excellent reason to work with an attorney from a respected law firm. They will help ensure that you include everything a Judge is likely to want to see, while helping you to put what you want from the process into writing while respecting Texas child custody laws.
Once the filing is complete, your lawyer will help to build supporting evidence that back up claims about parenting skills, demonstrate the relationship between the parent and child, and outline a parenting plan that would be best to apply going forward.
While it is vital to arrange evidence to support your case, you should also be aware of the likely appointment of an Amicus Attorney. The Amicus is tasked with independently gathering information and evidence on behalf of a Judge, ensuring they are well-positioned to make the correct decision.
Consider a Custody Evaluation
If the goal is to put forward your home as the child’s primary residence, a custody evaluation can help provide further evidence. They are also particularly useful when one spouse believes that the other may claim that they are an unfit parent due to their domestic situation.
These evaluations take place within the home and see an independent professional visiting the homes of both parents, often on multiple occasions. They will then compile a report and make a custody recommendation to the court based on their findings.
Explore and Understand Your Options
Your attorney will continue to advise you at every stage of the process, and you can expect regular contact as progress is made. There may be nuances and surprises as every case is different. For example, Texas is the only state where parents can request a jury trial to resolve their custody battle.
Keep in mind that a court will require mediation before the trial takes place. Your attorney can be incredibly useful when presenting a compelling case to the mediator, especially when another attorney is likely attempting to do the same on behalf of the other parent.
How the Trial Process Works
Custody battles that reach the trial stage are rarely quick to resolve. Indeed, trials typically begin between six months and a year after the filing date. The only likely reason for this to change is when a delayed trial may have a negative effect on children. In these cases, either parent can file a Motion for Preferential Trial Setting, bringing the custody hearing forward.
When the custody case reaches court, it will often occur in a single sitting. Hearings take place both in person and online, but you will have enough notice of the format to consult your lawyer regarding the best approach.
Custody Trials in Court
Whether online or in court, a custody trial typically begins with the parent that filed the case giving evidence and questioning any witnesses. The other parent then also has the opportunity to speak to the same witnesses before presenting their own evidence. After questioning their witnesses, the first parent then has the opportunity to do the same.
After this process, closing statements will follow.
When an attorney represents a parent, their legal specialist will present on their behalf. The parent will only need to speak when providing testimony.
If an Amicus Attorney was appointed in the case, they would have the opportunity to make opening and closing statements, present evidence, and question witnesses.
A Judge will often rule on the case shortly after the closing arguments, and their decision overrides any Temporary Orders that may have been in place. The final decision will often closely resemble any Temporary Order that remained in place up to the court date unless there has been a substantial change in circumstances or the Temporary Orders were found to be unsuitable.
In some cases, a Judge may require more time to reach a decision. They may require a few days, although complex cases may result in a delay of several weeks before a signed judgment becomes available.
Appealing a Custody Decision
As noted throughout, a Judge’s decision is typically final. However, parents do have options available to them if they believe, in conjunction with their attorney, that there is merit in challenging it.
If circumstances change following finalization, it is possible to apply for a Modification to the order. This might happen if the visitation schedule needs to change or both parents reach a new agreement on visitation rights.
Where a Modification is unsuitable, either party may appeal to a higher court.
Call Skillern Firm Now Ahead of Your Child Custody Hearing
Parents want what is best for their children. Still, the pressure and stress of divorce proceedings and the potential complexity of cases involving a child can encourage anyone to seek professional support.
The sooner you speak to a family law specialist from a reputable law firm, the quicker you can create an action plan and clarify what you want to achieve from the case. Your attorney will then work alongside you at every stage, from putting together a compelling case, attending mediation, and, if necessary, ultimately representing you and the best interest of you and your child in court.
If you need help understanding the custody process and want to ensure you have the best chance of success in your child custody battle, call Skillern Firm now to discover exactly how an attorney from our firm can help at 936-213-8479.