Nothing is more important than your child. When a couple with a child decides to split up, often the most gut wrenching issue is: who will have custody of the child?
It is important to choose your attorney carefully.
Child custody litigation is the area of family law where a well chosen attorney can make a big difference. It can be the most complex, difficult and vicious part of a divorce case. Not all attorneys are prepared or willing to go to the lengths necessary to maximize your chances of victory. Make sure you choose one of the few who are. Contact the Hacker Law Firm for a free consultation.
Child Support/Custody Overview
The parties to a divorce are generally free to come to agreement regarding the major terms of the divorce, including child custody, child support, spousal maintenance (i.e., alimony) and property division. If the parties do not come to agreement, those issues are decided by Judges and Juries
Courts often try to preserve the status quo. If you have a situation with a stay-at-home mother and a father who works long hours, then the Court is likely to award primary custody to the mother, unless there are other circumstances that can affect the case. Those circumstances might be substance abuse, family violence, a mental disorder or similar issues bearing on the health, safety and welfare of the child. If the care of children is divided more equally, other factors may come into play, such as the quality of the care and work requirements.
In all matters involing children, the Courts and the laws favor the best interests of the children, not the parent.
What is Custody ?
Courts award parents a variety of rights. The most important one, and what most people mean when they refer to "custody" is the right to establish the primary residence of the child. Next in importance is the amount of time each parent gets with the children. Also important is the right to make medical, educational and other decisions. Lastly, one parent usually ends up having the right to collect child support from the other parent.
Father vs. Mother
There is no preference under Texas family law for the woman (or man) to get custody. As a practical matter, most of the time the mother will end up with primary custody. Why? Because most families organize their lives this way, and Courts like to preserve the status quo.
Judge vs. Jury
In Texas you can choose between having a Judge or Jury make the custody decision. Most people opt to have a Judge make this decision, usually because a Jury trial is much more expensive.
If you choose to have a Jury trial, the Jury will likely consist of 12 jurors. In a Jury trial, the jurors often decide key issues, but other issues are usually reserved for the Court. Jurors typically decide child custody, while the judge decides issues of visitation and child support. Jurors typically value the community assets, decide which assets are separate property (i.e., which assets were owned by each party before the marriage) and decide which assets are community property (i.e., which assets were acquired by the parties
These are the "game changers" that can shift custody from one parent to the other. Substance abuse is a common game changer. Family violence is typically the most heavily punished under the law. Mental disorders are the most complex. All require an exceptionally tough and intelligent attorney on your side to take full advantage of, or to defend.
The most effective component of a case is the testimony of witnesses. They vary greatly in value, but generally the most effective ones are those that are neutral (such as a neighbor) and are reluctant to testify.
Splitting Up Children
Children are sometimes, but rarely, split up. This is disfavored, but not forbidden. Usually this occurs when the children are older.