Child Custody and Visitation Rights
One of the most common reasons for child custody battles is divorce. When a couple is seeking a divorce, and they are parents to minor children, they both have the right to child custody unless one of them is deemed as an unfit parent. There are several different options when it comes to issuing a child custody order in San Antonio. Texas courts do prefer joint custody over sole custody, but that doesn’t mean sole custody won’t be awarded.
If you have a San Antonio divorce lawyer, they will be able to help you with your child custody appeal. Sole custody means the parent who has been awarded custody can make exclusive decisions on how the child is brought up without having to consult the other parent. The child will also live with the mother or father who has gained sole custody. Joint custody allows the child (or children) to have a relationship with both of their parents.
With joint custody, the child’s upbringing must be a shared decision. The child will live primarily with one parent, and the other parent will have visitation rights, or the child will live with each parent for a certain amount of time and have two residences. There is another option, which is very rarely used – split custody. For split custody, there must be more than one child, and both of the parents are awarded full custody to one or more of their children.
If a couple is divorcing and they have children who are still classed as minors, Texas courts will require the parents to attend a parenting class. Divorce can be quite a traumatic experience for children, so these classes are to help the children and the parents deal with the situation. Both parents are required to attend and complete this course unless the court grants one or both of the parents a waiver. Instead of having to go to a classroom to take your course, you can fulfill the mandatory parenting class online instead.
Legal custody and physical custody
When a parent has legal custody, it’s their right to make decisions for the children and raise them how they feel appropriate. They get to choose what religion the children are, what school the kids go to, what medical treatments the children receive and what activities the children take part in. When a parent has physical custody, it means the children are in their possession. This means the children reside with that parent.
Joint Custody in San Antonio, TX
In Texas, joint custody is preferred over sole custody unless one of the parents has been neglectful, abusive or violent towards the child. If this is the case, shared custody will not be considered, as that parent will be deemed unsafe for the child.
Joint custody means decisions about the child’s upbringing must be shared ones. What school they go to, what activities they are part of etc., the decisions must be agreed upon by both parents. Shared custody also means both parents can gain access to their child’s medical records and sign their medical release forms.
Some parents who have not been awarded custody are instead granted with visitation rights. This means they can see their child on alternating weekends. If the parents live over 100 miles apart from each other, the parent who doesn’t have custody is often only granted with one weekend per month but may be given additional visitation for another time. During holidays, the time should be split between the two parents as they both have the right to see their children during this time. In the summer, 30 days of visitation are entitled to the parent who doesn’t have custody. This can increase to 42 days if the parent lives more than 100 miles away from the custodial parent.
Best interests of the child
When it comes to deciding which parent gets custody of their minor children, a lot of people think the mother is favored but this is not the case. Many things, including the best interests of the child, determine who gets custody. For example, the mother is more likely to get custody of a newborn baby as it naturally depends on its mother for food.
The court will evaluate the following factors to determine which parent gains custody:
● Each parent’s home environment
● The financial circumstances of each parent
● Their employment situation
● How well each parent would serve as the child’s carer
● Each parent’s availability
● The distance between each parent’s home
● If the parents can work well together to raise the child
● If the child is over 12 years old, their preference will be taken into account
How child custody is determined
When the court is considering between joint or sole custody and which parent sole custody would be awarded to, the decision is made with great consideration towards the child.
● What are the current and future physical and emotional needs of the child?
● Is the child subject to any emotional or physical danger currently or in the future?
● What are each parent’s plans for the child?
● Does each parent have the right parenting abilities – do they have the means to support the child currently and in the future?
● Has either of the parents proved they are unfit to care for a child?
If one of or both of the parents has a history of drug abuse, criminal behavior or domestic violence, the courts will not look them at favorably. In Texas, biological parents are not able to file for child custody if their parental rights have been terminated.
Custody battles can take quite a long time to process due to how complex they are. The court takes many factors into consideration and awards custody to the parent they feel has the most parental ability. If the court believes the child is in danger or is the subject of any emotional or physical abuse, they do have the right to remove the minor child from the custody of either parent.
Third party custody
If the child’s parents are both deceased or if both parents are unfit to care for a minor child, third party custody can be applied for. This could be a relative or a close family friend. If a relative or family friend was caring for the child for more than six months, they have the right to file for third party child custody. When both parents are deceased, the grandparents of the minor child have legal custody of them.
Modifications to court order
In Texas, it’s very rare for a parent to be able to modify a visitation or child custody order. The change will only be made if the court feels it’s in the best interests of the children or child.
● If the child is 12 years old or above and they have requested for the custody order to change
● If the parent who has custody of the minor child has willingly passed on custody to the other parent or another person
● If the current custodial parent has become unfit to care for the child or if circumstances have changed