Austin Child Custody Attorneys
Nobody wants a child custody lawsuit. But when you have significant child custody disputes, everything is on the line. At Lazar Law, we know how to try child custody cases, and we are not afraid to fight for your children and your parental rights in court. That gives us an advantage at the negotiation table, because when you are fighting for your kids, it isn’t about money, and you need a law firm that will go the distance for you. It is not uncommon for us to get custody cases settled after a win on temporary orders or for the opposing side to say that they just can’t fight our team.
The Austin child custody attorneys at Lazar Law are passionate about child custody cases. We are here to fight for your children’s best interests and for your rights in your Austin divorce or child custody dispute. Learn more below about child custody in Texas, and contact Lazar Law to discuss how to best approach your child custody issues.
What Does Custody Mean in Texas?
Child custody involves parental rights to decision making, where the children live, and what schedule the children have with each of their parents. Parents facing a breakup often think they understand how custody works, but there are many complexities. We find that once parents are educated about child custody law in Texas, with the help of experienced child custody lawyers, many can negotiate a unique parenting plan that suits the needs of their family. But for some families, agreements are never going to happen. For those parents, child custody cases wind up at the courthouse with the judge deciding the future for your children and your parental rights. In those situations, you need an advocate that knows how to present the circumstances of your children in a way that gives you the best chance to win.
In Texas, parents are named conservators for their children. Conservators can also be grandparents or others who meet the requirements under Texas law. That is why the law uses the term conservator and not parent because people with rights over children are not necessarily limited to parents. For purposes of discussion here, we are going to refer to parents. But if you are named a conservator of a child, the same issues apply.
Most parents are named joint managing conservators, which means that each parent has parental rights to information from school and medical providers, to attend school events, and to be listed as a contact in case of emergency as examples. These are basic parental rights that parents should have at all times and are rarely disputed issues. When you have a parent with a history of domestic violence or neglect, drugs or alcohol use, criminal behavior, or that parent has been absent from your child’s life, it may be appropriate to deny even these basic parental rights to the offending parent and to give all the parental rights to one parent as sole managing conservator.
What Does It Mean to Have Primary Custody?
The most important parental right we work through in child custody cases is the right to establish the primary residence of the children. If your case goes to court, in Texas, the judge can only award one parent the exclusive right to establish the primary residence of the child. Whichever parent is the primary resident parent then informs decisions about access and visitation and the payment of child support. Out of court, there are other options. Parents can agree that the children can live with both parents without one having more rights than the other. Parents who are interested in an equal possession schedule often agree not to have a primary resident parent.
Another huge issue we face in child custody cases is geographic restriction. If you are named the parent with the exclusive right to establish the primary residence of the children, you are likely to be restricted as to where you can live, and that area of geographic restriction is usually small enough to allow the other parent easy access to your children’s residence. The non-primary parent is allowed to move out of the geographically restricted area, and if they do, then usually the geographic restriction is lifted. If the primary resident parent wants to move, these cases must be handled with care. They are fact-specific and require the detailed development of evidence. Often, relocation cases turn into a fight over primary custody. The potential move presents an opportunity to revisit which parent should be primary.
In setting out the parameters of conservatorship and which parent will have primary custody of the children, Texas law considers a number of factors, such as:
- The physical and emotional needs of the child
- The ability of the parents to put their kids first
- Whether both parents were involved in the child-rearing so far
- The geographical proximity of the parents to one another
- Each parent’s residence and the stability of the home life
Can My Child Decide Who to Live With?
Many people in Texas believe that once a child is 12 years old, the child can decide which parent they want to live with. This is a common misunderstanding. In Texas, if a child custody case goes to trial, the judge may consider the stated preference of a child over 12, but the child does not have the power to choose, and the court does not have to follow the child’s preference. If a child’s preference is going to be taken into consideration, then the court must interview the child. The child cannot submit an affidavit or a letter. Child interviews are conducted by the judge in chambers. The child does not testify in open court. Whether or not to involve your child in the court process is a decision that we address with our clients in all child custody cases going to trial.
What Other Rights are Addresses in Custody Cases?
The other important rights we deal with in child custody cases in Texas are:
- The right to consent to invasive medical procedures
- The right to consent to psychiatric and psychological treatment
- The right to make education decisions
Texas law allows these decisions to be made jointly by agreement of the conservators, exclusively by one conservator, or independently by either conservator. These decisions are considered so important as to warrant legislating who can make them on behalf of a child. Day-to-day parenting decisions, including regular medical checkups and dental treatment, can be made by the parent who has possession of the child at the time.
The final product in a child custody case is a parenting plan contained in an order approved by the court. If you go to court, your parenting plan will address only the enumerated issues stated in the Texas Family Code. If you reach a negotiated agreement, your parenting plan can be crafted to address the unique needs of your family.
The team at Lazar Law are experienced child custody attorneys who can assist with all facets of child custody in a divorce or other family law matter, including negotiating with the other parent and opposing counsel in a collaborative or traditional process, or litigating in court when necessary to get the right result.