If you don't already have a child custody order, the first step is consulting with a knowledgeable attorney about your options. Sarah Anne will walk you through the process, which begins with filing a Petition in Suit Affecting the Parent-Child Relationship in the county where the child resides.
A child custody order generally covers three basic areas:
Conservatorship. Conservatorship is essentially a determination of each parent's rights and duties with respect to their child. Absent evidence that a parent is unfit or unable to act in their child's best interest, the law presumes that each parent will be a joint managing conservator. The parents will each have an equal right to make decisions for their child, such as consenting to medical treatment and making education decisions.
Possession and Access. A child custody order must have a detailed schedule of each parent's possession time in order to be enforceable. While the Texas Family Code does contain a detailed Standard Possession Order, parties are free to negotiate whatever arrangements that make the most sense for their family.
The schedule in the order does not prevent the parents from making other arrangements from time to time, as needed. Sarah Anne generally encourages her clients to be flexible and cooperative in making arrangements with the other parent, as rigidity inevitably leads to future litigation, and can ultimately harm children.
Child Support. Parents have an obligation to financially support their children. The Texas Family Code contains guidelines for how to calculate child support, based on the obligor's net monthly income. In some cases, it may be appropriate to deviate from the guidelines to address a special circumstance, such as a child with special needs. In other cases, parents may agree to an amount of child support that they believe to be in the best interest of their children.
Unfortunately for all too many families, divorce is the hardest on children. According to researchers, parental conflict, and not divorce or possession schedule, is the single most critical factor in a child's post-divorce adjustment. Children can thrive during and after divorce if their parents can communicate effectively and cooperate.
Because issues of parental conflict come up so frequently in child custody cases, Sarah Anne is well versed in a variety of options that can help put families on a better path. Options may include retaining a parenting facilitator or parenting coordinator, utilizing a web-based program for communication, or counseling.
When circumstances have materially and substantially changed since the prior order was rendered, you may need to make adjustments to your child custody order. Sarah Anne has ample experience helping parties modify their child custody orders. Some examples of changes that may warrant a modification are:
Child custody orders impose obligations on parents, such as paying child support or allowing the other parent periods of possession of the children. If a parent isn't following the order, Sarah Anne can assist you with a suit for enforcement.
Lishman Law, PLLC
310 S. St. Mary's St., Suite 2500, San Antonio, Texas 78205
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