The presumption that a mother will be the primary caretaker of a child post-divorce or separation no longer exists in Texas. In fact, the Texas Family Code specifically states that the court will consider the “qualifications” of the parties without regard to the sex of the parent or child, in determining conservatorship and possession issues. In other words, custody decisions are supposed to be gender-neutral.
Currently, in Texas, it is presumed that parents will be designated as “Joint Managing Conservators” and jointly share the decision-making rights and responsibilities for the children; however, one parent is typically designated as the primary parent, which is the parent who has the exclusive right to establish the primary residence custody of the children. When parents are unable to agree, a court must make this determination based upon what the Court believes is in the best interest of the children taking into consideration multiple factors, including the qualifications of the parties without regard to the sex of the parent, or children.
The Texas Family Code specifically states that the court will consider the “qualifications” of the parties without regard to the sex of the parent, or child, in determining conservatorship and possession issues.
To learn more, we spoke with KoonsFuller shareholder Liz Porter, who specializes in custody issues and has been exclusively practicing family law for 18 years. Below, Ms. Porter shares eight things to know when facing a custody lawsuit and provides her pro tips for ensuring that you do not “lose custody” of your child.
- Be the Primary Caretaker
In a custody suit, one of the main factors the Court considers in determining primary custody is which parent has historically been the primary caretaker of the children. This includes taking care of the daily routine responsibilities for children such as feeding, preparing meals, taking to and from school and appointments. Even when both parents work, typically the Court will look at which parent manages more of the daily caretaking and responsibility for the children in determining the primary caretaker.
- Be Active in Your Child’s Routine
Know your children’s activities and schedule. Know their teachers and their friends. Be the parent who is more actively engaged in their daily routine, which ultimately better positions you in a custody suit.
- Use Good Judgement and Control
It is important to have an established pattern of setting age-appropriate rules and boundaries for your children and using appropriate discipline when required while the children are in your care.
- Avoid Excessive Alcohol Use
“In my opinion, Courts have become more and more sensitive to alcohol use,” says Porter, “and if an allegation is made that one parent is abusing alcohol, the court takes it very seriously.” In these cases, Courts have various ways to monitor alcohol use, including requiring a parent to submit to blood or urine tests, or submit to breathalyzer testing to ensure the safety and welfare of the children, or compliance with Court orders.
- Avoid All Illegal Drugs
Using illegal drugs and other controlled substances that you do not have a valid prescription is an almost guarantee that you will lose custody or have restricted access to children. “My advice is if it’s against the law, don’t do it,” advises Porter.
- Use Extreme Caution on Social Media
Thanks to all the new technology virtually every custody case involves evidence that a party posted on social media or sent in writing, whether a text message, email or private message. Custody cases can turn on this type of evidence.
- What You Say Can and Will Be Used Against You
Divorces and custody lawsuits can get heated. Be careful what you say about the other parent or to the other parent because you never know who may be recording you. As long as the person recording is a party to the conversation, it is legal. Often these recordings are played in Court and can be very powerful evidence in a custody case.
- Hire the Best Custody Lawyer You Can
If you find yourself facing a custody lawsuit, it is crucial to hire the best custody lawyer at the outset of the case, when strategic and determinative decisions are made. With offices in Dallas, Houston, Plano, Southlake and Denton, KoonsFuller is the second largest family law firm in the country and has more board-certified family lawyers than any other family law firm in Texas. Divorce and custody proceedings are stressful; however, having an experienced attorney who is your advocate can provide some peace of mind and confidence during the process.
Connect with a KoonsFuller lawyer here.