Do You Need a Child Custody Attorney? Ask These Questions

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If you are facing a divorce that involves children or have a child custody concern outside of divorce, you may not know where to turn for the help you need. If you are unsure whether you need a child custody attorney, it can be helpful to know the telltale signs that it is time to reach out for professional legal guidance.

Further, knowing how to focus your concerns and ask your attorney the right questions can help set your mind at ease and allow you to move forward with greater focus and confidence. Do not wait to reach out for the professional legal counsel of an experienced Killeen child custody attorney.

The Signs that You Need a Child Custody Attorney

First of all, child custody represents your rights as a parent, which are incredibly important. You are always better off when you are backed up by professional legal counsel when addressing challenging matters of this magnitude. There are, however, certain signs that clearly highlight one’s need for a child custody attorney.

You Are Not Sure What Is at Stake

You understand that, with a divorce (or when you end a relationship with your children’s other parent), you will need to address the matter of when your children are with you and when they are with their other parent, but things may be murky beyond this point.

If this is where you find yourself, you are not alone. Child custody is a complicated legal matter that parents generally do not fully understand before living through it.

Legal Custody

In Texas, child custody encompasses both legal and physical custody. Legal custody sets the stage for how you and your ex will address the matter of making important decisions about the following primary parenting concerns:

  • Your children’s medical care

  • Your children’s schooling

  • Your children’s travel and participation in extracurricular activities

  • Your children’s religious upbringing

There are viable options when it comes to the matter of legal custody, including the following arrangements:

  • Hammering out each of these major decisions together

  • Hammering out these decisions together but allowing one of you to break a tie if you cannot find a middle ground after exhausting your efforts to do so

  • Dividing the decisions between you according to the kind of decision that needs to be made

  • Awarding one parent sole legal custody

It is important to point out that those decisions that need to be made in emergency situations and those that need to be made on a daily basis fall to the parent who is available at the time.

Physical Custody

Physical custody is likely what you think of when you consider child custody, and it determines the schedule by which your children will divide their time between the two of you. While physical custody concerns are often quite complicated, the basic arrangements include the following possibilities:

Once you better understand what you are up against in terms of child custody, you will have a better idea of your legal needs. However, even if you and your divorcing spouse are on the same page regarding child custody and you expect smooth sailing moving forward, things have a way of changing as divorces progress and tensions escalate.

Because your parental rights are too important to leave to chance, it is always in your best interest to consult with a dedicated child custody attorney – regardless of how straightforward your negotiations seem at the moment.

Your Spouse Is All Over the Board

If your spouse is all over the board in terms of his or her child custody preferences, it is a good sign that you should have skilled legal representation on your side. As mentioned, emotions run high during divorce, and your divorcing spouse may feel pulled in many different directions, which can lead to erratic behavior.

If your children’s other parent enters into a verbal agreement with you on the matter on Monday but is heading in an entirely new direction by Friday, it means – at best – that he or she is feeling uncertain or – at worst – that he or she is preparing to turn up the heat on your child custody case.

One universal truth of divorce is that it is extremely unpredictable. If your spouse is showing signs that you may be in for a bumpy ride for your divorce, it is best to nail down your child custody priorities and to look to a legal professional to help you obtain them.

Your Access to Your Children Has Been Curtailed

While your divorce – or your child custody case – is pending, both of you have the legal right to spend time with your children. You can work this out between yourselves or obtain temporary orders from the court.

If your divorcing spouse is not living up to his or her end of the bargain, his or her actions should not be ignored. If nothing else, your failure to enforce your rights can send a message to the court that you are not invested in protecting – or expanding – your parenting time.

While you may think that making a fuss will send the proceedings in a contentious direction, the matter of physical custody is far too important to hold your tongue and hope things improve. This is a situation in which you need a veteran child custody attorney on your side.

You Are Concerned for Your Children’s Safety

If you fear that child abuse, neglect, or domestic violence of any kind is a concern, you should not wait to resolve the issue later. Your children’s safety and well-being are paramount, and working closely with a compassionate child custody attorney from the outset is very well advised.

Your Spouse Has already Hired a Child Custody Attorney

If your spouse is already working with a child custody attorney, it is an excellent sign that you should be, too.

Your divorcing spouse hired a child custody attorney because he or she has child custody priorities that he or she wants to protect, and you should do the same. If your ex has legal representation and you do not, it puts you at a considerable disadvantage in terms of protecting your parental rights, and leveling the playing field is in your best interest.

The Questions You Should Ask

You have made the decision that you need a child custody attorney, and now it is time to gather your thoughts and compile your preliminary questions.

The most important point to remember is that your child custody attorney is on your side, which means that you should not be afraid to express all of your concerns and should not hold back when it comes to asking questions. If there is something you want to know or something you are unsure about, speak up – your child custody attorney is there to help.

How does the court determine child custody arrangements?

Texas courts take every child custody case on an individual basis, but the presiding judge is always guided by the best interests of the children involved. As such, the following best-interest factors are taken into careful consideration in every child custody case:

  • Each child’s reasonable preference (if he or she is mature enough to offer such a preference)

  • Each child’s physical and emotional needs (including any special needs)

  • Each parent’s overall ability to provide for the children and their evolving needs

  • The stability of each parent’s home

  • The overall physical and emotional health of each parent

  • Any acts or omissions by either parent in terms of past parenting (and any mitigating circumstances that pertain to these acts or omissions)

  • Each parent’s preference and plans for the children

  • How well the children have adapted to their current living situation (in terms of their home, school, and community)

  • Any concerns related to child abuse, child neglect, or domestic violence

  • Any other factors that the court believes to be relevant to the custody case at hand

The court takes a holistic approach to child custody, and your child custody attorney will help you better understand what this means for you in your unique situation.

Does the mother receive preference in terms of child custody?

The fact of the matter is that Texas courts do not factor whether the parent is the mother or the father into child custody determinations. The court wants what is best for the child under the given circumstances – regardless of whether this favors the mother or the father (if it favors either).

The court will, however, consider the status quo and how well it is working. If one of you is currently acting as the primary custodial parent and the children are doing well in response, it can increase the likelihood that the court will favor that parenting arrangement.

To the degree that the mother is more likely to take on this role, there can be a perceived preference for mothers, but this is only in relation to the status quo, and fathers continue to take on much more prominent roles in this regard.

It is important to point out here that the court believes the best interests of children are nearly universally better served when the children are able to develop strong ties with both parents. This means that – barring a significant reason for ruling otherwise – both of you are very likely to be awarded time with your children.

How will we hammer out a schedule?

If you and your divorcing spouse are able to negotiate between yourselves, you can create any kind of schedule that works for you and that you are both willing to agree upon. However, divorce has a way of breaking negotiations down, so if you cannot find a middle ground between yourselves, other options are available.

Consider the following arrangements for determining your child custody schedule:

  • Your respective child custody attorneys can negotiate on behalf of each of you in an attempt to find a workable schedule.

  • You and your child custody attorney and your soon-to-be ex and his or her attorney can explore your options at mediation – where a professional mediator who acts as a neutral third party will help you better understand how the court is likely to rule in your case and will help you find common ground within this context.

If you need the court’s intervention, you can expect to receive one of its standard parenting time schedules.

How is child support determined?

The State of Texas has a careful child support methodology in place that considers a wide range of relevant factors, including these matters:

  • The age and overall physical and mental health of each child

  • Each parent’s overall financial situation, including the payor’s ability to pay and the recipient’s financial need

  • The cost of childcare if the primary custodial parent were to work outside the home (if he or she is a stay-at-home parent)

  • The overall resources and income available to the child support recipient

  • The amount of time each parent spends with the children

  • The children’s education expenses

  • The children’s healthcare expenses

  • Any extraordinary expenses – such as tutoring, extracurriculars, or counseling – the children have

  • Any other factors that the court believes pertain to the case at hand

You Need an Experienced Killeen Child Custody Attorney on Your Side

Child custody concerns are some of the most difficult concerns a parent can face, and protecting your parental rights is essential. Brett Pritchard at The Law Office of Brett H. Pritchard in Killeen, Texas, is a veteran child custody attorney with a wealth of impressive experience helping clients like you resolve their cases favorably.

Your case is important, and we are here to help – so please do not wait to contact us online or call us at (254) 781-4222 for more information today.

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