Child custody issues are typically raised in divorce proceedings, post divorce modifications, and when unmarried parents end their relationship with each other. A Suit Affecting the Parent Child Relationship (SAPCR) is the legal means for resolving child custody issues when there is no marriage between the parents or when married parents separate but do not divorce. There are also situations in which people other than the child’s biological parents, such as grandparents, may seek custody of a child. The guiding principle considered by Texas Courts in child custody cases is the “best interest of the child.”
Custody is not always designated to one parent (as in sole manager or primary custody); joint/shared/split custody may be an option as well. There are two types of joint custody under Texas law. If parents have joint legal custody, they each have equal rights to make major decisions for their child and must agree on these decisions. Some examples of major decisions are education, religion, healthcare, discipline and other activities.
If parents have joint physical custody, the time each child spends with the parent is split equally. It is also possible for parents to have joint legal custody and not joint physical custody. Then the child may spend less time with one parent, such as weekends, holidays or other specified time periods. Different jurisdictions have statutes regarding joint or split custody with their own requirements. However, commonly, the courts look at the fitness of each parent, their ability to cooperate with each other, the child’s relationship with each parent and each parent’s desire to be involved in the child’s life.
Gender Issues with Respect to Child Custody
Historically, Texas Courts presumed the mother to be the most favorable parent to award custody of the child. However. today this is no longer the case. Courts must consider the best interests of the child when determining custody. The best interests of the child have nothing to do with a parent’s gender. The courts look at criteria such as the wishes of the child and the parents, the relationship of the child to the parents, siblings and any other extended family, the location of the parent (considering adjustment to school, church, etc.), the health of the child and/or parents, the financial situation of each parent and which parent has been the primary caretaker of the child thus far.
Even though there is no legal presumption in favor of the mother, it is important to note that courts in some jurisdictions may still give preference to the mother in custody disputes where the child is an infant, under the age of six or a female child of mature years. However, if this is the practice, courts still consider who has been the primary caregiver, the mental and physical health of the parent, the financial situation of the parent and other similar criteria to the "best interests of the child."
Texas, unlike some other states, does not provide a specific legal right to grandparents to sue for visitation. Nevertheless, grandparents can petition a judge to grant them visitation rights, and in some circumstances a judge will enter a visitation order detailing a grandparent’s rights and obligations; such an order will have the full force of law.
By their very nature, these cases most often arise in dysfunctional family situations where there is tension between at least one parent and a grandparent. It can take a skilled attorney to unravel all the competing interests and to address a grandparent’s rights in terms of what is best for the child’s well-being, which is the court’s primary focus. Our experienced family law attorneys have the ability to present a compelling argument for why a judge should order that you be granted visitation rights with your grandchild.
The Child Custody Attorneys at the Bunger Law Firm strive to balance protecting the rights and desires of our clients while also focusing on what is in the best interest of the children. As a priority the goal is to always minimize a child’s exposure to litigation whenever possible.
The Bunger Law Firm is experienced in representing mothers, fathers, and grandparents with child custody and child visitation matters in the North Texas area. When child custody issues cannot be resolved by mutual agreement, mediation or a collaborative law processes, we are experienced litigators and will zealously represent your interests through trial.
Many people in Texas believe that child support is only the responsibility of the non-custodial parent. However, both parents contribute to the financial costs of raising children. These costs are taken into account when negotiating a divorce decree or custody issues when parents separate, that benefits all parties involved, especially what is in the best interests of the children.
The amount of child support is usually determined according to a statutory formula. Under Texas law, the percentage of the noncustodial parent’s net resources that are awarded as child support generally follows these guidelines: 20 percent of net resources for one child, 25 percent for two children, 30 percent for three, 35 percent for four, 40 percent for five and no less than 40 percent for six or more children, not to exceed certain maximum limits based on the noncustodial parent’s income.
Each state has developed guidelines that help establish the amount of child support that must be paid by the noncustodial parent. Under Texas law the guidelines are based on the parents’ incomes, expenses and the needs of the children. In some circumstance the Courts may have greater discretion in determining the amount of child support when situations concerning the special circumstances of the child justify deviating from the guidelines. When making a determination as to what is the appropriate support for a child, the Courts will often consider: the child’s standard of living before the parents’ separation or divorce, the noncustodial parent’s ability to pay the ordered child support, the custodial parent’s needs and income and specific needs of the child, including educational costs, daycare expenses and medical expenses (health insurance or special health care needs).
The Attorneys at the Bunger Law Firm are experienced in representing clients with child custody and child support issues. Contact the Bunger Law firm to schedule a consultation with an attorney who specializes in child custody and child support matters.