Child custody is often the most difficult and hard fought of any part of a divorce. Frequently, both parents believe that he/she should be the parent with the right to establish the “primary” residence of the children, and have facts that support their respective assertion. So, what happens? If the case is not resolved through negotiations or mediation, the case will be tried, leaving the decision up to a judge or jury to decide.
What child custody issues have to be decided in the context of a divorce?
1. Conservatorship – In Texas, it is presumed that it is in the best interest of the children for the parents to be named joint managing conservators (JMC). As JMCs, the parents will share in the decisions affecting their kids lives, such as education, medical, psychological and religious upbringing. However, just because you are named JMCs does not mean that you have equal time with the kids.
2. Possession and Access – People are often confused to learn that being named JMCs does not mean equal time with the kids. It is becoming more common for parents to share in a 50/50 possession schedule, but it is not the norm. Most often, the “non-primary” parent will have possession and access in accordance with the Standard Possession Order (SPO) as delineated in the Texas Family Code. Said SPO can “expanded” or regular. The SPO gives the “non-primary” conservator the right to the children on the first, third and fifth weekends of the month, as well as Thursday evening during the school year. The SPO also has provisions that deal with holiday schedules.
3. Child Support – Child support is the payment made by the “non-primary” conservator to the other on a monthly basis for the support of the child. Often, child support will be paid in a 50/50 situation as an equalization payment where one conservator has substantially more income than the other. The amount of child support to be paid depends on the number of children before the court and if the payor has any other children which he/she supports who are under the age of 18 and have graduated from high school.
4. Health Insurance – Frequently, the person paying child support also pays for the kids’ health insurance.
5. Extra-curricular activities – The fight over the kids’ extra-curricular activities has been increasing lately. It is common for one party to not want to pay for any part of the activity when he/she has not been involved in the decision of participation. Also, some parents do not wish to allow the kids to attend the activity when the parent did not approve of the involvement from the beginning.
There are a multitude of other decisions that must be made by the litigants or the court in a child custody matter, but the five areas above are the most heavily litigated.
With all of these decisions to be made, what evidence does the court rely on in making its’ decision? Call on of our family attorneys to find out.
Hammerle Finley’s family law attorneys average over twenty-five years of experience and can help walk you through this difficult process. Craig Fowler has been trying, litigating and mediating these matters in Collin, Denton, Dallas and Tarrant counties for years. .