Fort Bend County Harris County Experienced Child Custody / Visitation Attorney – Jason Lawrence
Child Custody / Visitation Lawyer in Fort Bend County and Harris County, Texas
A parent should fight for custody when it is in the child's best interest that they do so. A parent's selfish needs or desires to hurt the other spouse should not be a factor, nor should a parent's desires to collect child support. Keep in mind that fighting for custody can often be expensive, time consuming, and may even be harmful to the child emotionally. If you do fight for custody, it is best to hire a child custody lawyer to help you through the process.
CAN A CHILD DECIDE WHO HE OR SHE WILL LIVE WITH?A child who is 12 years or older can legally sign an affidavit stating who he or she wants to be his or her managing conservator. The purpose of this affidavit is to inform the judge of the child's election and is not binding on the judge. Additionally, a child older than 12 may be allowed to speak with the judge privately about his or her preferences regarding living arrangements going forward.
HOW DO I DECIDE WHETHER TO SEEK SOLE CUSTODY OR JOINT CUSTODY?Jason Lawrence can help you decide whether to file sole custody or joint custody. Texas law presumes that all parents will be granted the title of joint managing conservators. The presumption may not apply when issues such as drug abuse, alcohol abuse, or domestic violence affect the children. In those instances, one parent may be named the sole managing conservator and the other parent will be named the possessory conservator. The title given does not necessarily affect the other issues pertaining to the children. Regardless of the title, both parents will be awarded certain rights and duties to the children, and both parents will be awarded periods of possession with the children. It is important to discuss the specifics of your case with an experience attorney prior to making this decision.
HOW CAN I GET LEGAL CUSTODY IF MY CHILD IS LIVING WITH ME BUT THE OTHER PARENT HAS COURT-ORDERED CUSTODY?If the person having custody of the child under the last court order voluntarily leaves the child in the possession of another person for a period of more than 6 months and the court finds that this arrangement is in the best interest of the child, the court may modify custody upon the filing of the proper motion with the court. Additionally, the court can always modify a previous order if a material and substantial change has occurred and the previous order is no longer in the best interest of the child. Jason Lawrence, an experienced custody lawyer in Houston, TX at Lawrence Law Firm will provide details on any such modifications as they review your case.
WHAT SORT OF VISITATION IS USUALLY AWARDED?Texas law presumes that a standard visitation schedule will be followed in most cases for children age 3 and older. A judge can deviate from the standard schedule with good cause, and special allowances can be made for religious holidays.
Of course, parents can agree on custody arrangements that differ from the standard visitation schedule, and judges frequently approve their agreement. Even if you and your spouse are in agreement on a schedule, it is still advised to hire a child custody lawyer to comb through legalities.
Regardless of the visitation schedule written into the divorce decree, divorced parents can always agree to follow any workable schedule of visitation they feel is best for their child. Possession orders are made by judges to provide a definite visitation schedule in case parents cannot agree.
WHAT IS THE STANDARD POSSESSION ORDER?The Texas Family Code provides a standard possession order for parents who live within 100 miles of each other or over 100 miles of each other. For parents residing within 100 miles of each other, the standard possession basically divides holidays evenly between both parents and gives the parent with visitation at least two weekends a month, two hours on Thursdays during weeks not in possession, and 30 days during the summer. The Houston custody lawyers at Lawrence Law Firm will ensure your time is divided fairly.
School holidays can extend a parent’s visitation. Under the standard possession order, if a parent has visitation on a weekend and the following Monday is a school holiday, then the period of visitation ends at 6:00 p.m. on Monday instead of Sunday. Likewise, if school is out on Friday, the weekend visitation starts at 6:00 p.m. Thursday instead of Friday.
WHAT TYPE OF VISITATION IS INCLUDED IN THE STANDARD POSSESSION ORDER?As your child custody attorney will explain, the standard child custody order for parents who live less than 100 miles apart states that one parent will have visitation on the following schedule:
• Weekends starting at 6:00 p.m. on the first, third and fifth Friday of each month and ending at 6:00 p.m. on the following Sunday. (Under the expanded option visitation begins when school is dismissed on Fridays and return Monday to school).
• Thursdays during the school year starting at 6:00 p.m. and ending at 8:00 p.m. (Under the expanded option, Houston child custody lawyers can ensure the period begins when school ends and/or ends when school resumes the following Friday morning).
• From 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. on the child's birthday. Fathers have possession for Father's Day from 6:00 p.m. on the Friday before Father's Day until 6:00 p.m. on Father's Day. Mothers have the same period for Mother's Day.
• In even-numbered years: Parent A has the child during Spring Break, Parent B has the child for Thanksgiving, Parent A has the child for Christmas from the time school lets out until noon on December 28th, and Parent B has possession from December 26 until 6 p.m. on the day before school resumes. In odd-numbered years, the holiday schedule is reversed. Custody lawyers in Houston, TX should be familiar with this regulation so agreement on such details can more easily be reached.
• The parent with visitation has the child for 30 days during the summer. If that parent gives notice before May 1, he/she can designate the 30 days during the summer when he/she has possession in up to two separate periods of at least seven days. If no notice is given, he/she has possession from July 1 until July 31.
WHAT IS THE EXPANDED STANDARD POSSESSION ORDER?The Texas Family Code states that an expanded standard possession order shall be granted if parent with visitation requests it and it is in the best interest of the child. Your child custody lawyer will study your case and suggest this order if it is advisable. In most courts in the greater Houston area, an expanded standard possession order will always be granted upon request.
An expanded possession allows the parent to pick up for weekend possession at the time school is regularly dismissed, instead of at 6:00 p.m. The weekend ends when the child is dropped off at school on Monday, instead of at 6:00 p.m. on Sunday. Instead of 2hours every Thursday, there is an overnight visitation every Thursday.
WHAT ARE THE DIFFERENCES BETWEEN A STANDARD POSSESSION ORDER FOR FEWER THAN 100 MILES AND A STANDARD POSSESSION ORDER FOR OVER 100 MILES?The possessory parent has visitation every spring break when the parents live farther apart, instead of every other spring break when the parents live near each other. Similarly, summer visitation is expanded to 42 days, instead of 30 days. Finally, if a parent is unable to visit on the first, third and fifth weekend due to distance, the possessory parent may choose any one weekend per month for visits. Team up with Houston custody lawyer Jason D. Lawrence to learn more about which child custody options are best for you.
ARE PARENTING CLASSES REQUIRED IN CUSTODY CASES?Many courts require parents to take parenting classes when custody is at issue. There are many court approved courses online and in person. However, Lawrence Law Firm recommends that all clients verify that the preferred course is acceptable to the court in question. Please keep in mind that some courts do not accept online classes and/or have a few select providers they prefer. As a rule of thumb, please call the court and verify before registering.
The link below provides a list of court approved courses:
Child Custody Houston - Court Approved Parenting Classes