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“Joint custody” in Houston, Texas is a very broad term. It doesn’t necessarily mean a 50 / 50 split of actual possession of the children. It is a form of child custody arrangement that addresses how certain rights and duties when it comes to raising their children are assigned as well as how time with the children is divided.

Even in a very equal ruling, the split may be closer to 53/47, with the primary or custodial parent getting 53% of the time with the child and receiving child support.

How the rights and duties and possession schedule are decided is a matter of each individual case, but is often a variation of the standard possession order. Parents who have less custody of their child (or are named as the “Possessory Conservator” per the Texas Family Code) are often ordered to pay child support, exercise a possession order schedule and may have less rights and duties than the other parent (the Primary Conservator).

The opposite of joint custody is “sole custody,” where one parent retains all exclusive rights regarding their kids. The courts don’t like to award sole custody unless there is a very good reason. For example, a history of substance abuse or neglect.

How Is Custody Decided?

It is important to understand that, no matter how much you dislike your ex, and no matter how messy the divorce is, these things by themselves don’t necessarily mean that sole custody is a good outcome for the kids. Instead, when making decisions on sole or joint custody in Houston, Texas, the courts look at the best interest of the children. Some of the most important questions include:

  • Can each parent take care of the kids, both physically and financially? (If you have been a stay-at-home parent, don’t worry: This isn’t necessarily a deal breaker; you might be awarded spousal maintenance to give you time to reenter the workforce.)
  • Will the kids have a safe and stable home with each parent?
  • Has each parent been involved in their children’s lives so far?
  • Will the kids’ daily lives be severely disrupted in some way (for instance, by moving far away)?
  • What arrangement do the children themselves desire (if they are 12 years or older)?
  • Is either parent dangerous or a bad influence on the kids?
  • Is each parent willing to accept that the kids might wish to maintain their relationship with the other parent?
  • The answers to these questions will help determine the specifics of your arrangement for joint custody in Texas.

Texas-Sized Terminology

In Texas, the legal name for custody is conservatorship. There are two types of conservatorship:

Possessory conservatorship is more commonly known as “physical custody.” It refers to where the kids will live and what sort of possession schedule will be awarded.

Managing conservatorship is more commonly known as “legal custody.” It refers to the power to make decisions about the children’s education, healthcare, and so forth.

It is possible for arrangements of joint custody in Houston, Texas to involve any combination of both kinds of custody, depending on your particular circumstances.

For example, if one parent has a disability that would make it hard for the kids to live with them, they might have a custody arrangement where they have a limited possession schedule but share joint rights and duties for the children.

Alternatively, a parent who can provide a safe home for the kids but is terrible about planning for the future and saving money might have equal physical custody but limited ability to manage the children’s finances (for example, an inherited estate).

Typically, both forms of custody are shared in an arrangement that the courts or the parties deem to be in the best interest of the children.

What If My Ex Looks Good on Paper but Is Bad for the Kids?

This is a thorny issue that comes up very often in custody disputes. Sometimes, there is a genuine case of one parent putting on a good public face but doing bad things at home. If this is true of your ex, then Ramos Law Group can help you document these parental fitness issues and demonstrate them to the court or a mediator. It is important to do your best to document these instances to provide solid evidence rather than a “he said-she said” situation. Documentation can come from school records, social media, text messages or emails, medical records, etc.

What If I’m the One Being Accused as Unfit for Custody?

If you’re the one being accused of parental unfitness, we can help you defend against those accusations by refuting them if they’re false. It is especially important to consult with an attorney for swift legal action if a protective order has been filed against you.

If there is some truth to the accusations, it is not necessarily a deal-breaker. The court’s primary goal is to preserve a relationship between the child and both parents. It’s still very possible for you to earn joint custody in Houston, Texas or elsewhere, as long as there is nothing that would be deemed harmful to the best interests of the child.

The Ramos Law Group can help you do this by charting a path for you to overcome or minimize any weakness in your fitness as a parent. For instance, if you have anger issues, it will go a long way in court if you can show the judge that you’ve been attending counseling sessions. If you’re bad with money, you can open a savings account and prove that you’re capable of financial responsibility. We may also be able to help you by going through a mediation process rather than litigating everything in court.

Our goal is always to help you get the rights you deserve when it comes to joint custody in Houston, Texas.

What If Things Change Down the Road?

Custody arrangements are not always permanent. A court can modify them if circumstances change as long as the children are under the age of 18. If you’re worried that an upcoming custody dispute will end unfavorably for you, here at Ramos Law Group we can help you prepare both to get the best outcome possible, both today and down the road.

Advice for Dads

There’s a common belief that the courts treat fathers unfairly, giving preferential consideration to mothers when it comes to arrangements for joint custody in Houston, Texas and the surrounding counties.

The good news is that, legally, this is no longer true. In the past, due to stronger views about the roles of men and women in society, and the fact that many mothers stayed at home instead of working, the courts often did grant favorable custody arrangements to women. Today, however, this is illegal and the focus is on the children’s needs rather than traditional gender roles. The courts must consider the rights of each parent regardless of gender. (This also applies to certain other traits, such as race.) And most courts get it right!

The bad news is that old beliefs die hard, and sometimes there is still a prejudice against fathers. However, since it’s against the law, you can fight it. Ramos Law Group offers divorce and custody lawyers for men who can help walk you through the steps you need to take in your proceedings for joint custody in Houston, Texas.

You Need an Experienced Custody Lawyer

Many good parents lose custody rights because they did not properly prepare their case or put on the best possible evidence or legal arguments. Ramos Law Group has a long record of experience in winning custody disputes and getting parents the rights they deserve.

If you’re involved in a dispute for joint custody in Houston, Texas, or the surrounding areas, we can help! Contact us today to discuss your situation and get the ball rolling toward a healthier, happier tomorrow for you and your kids.

Fatherhood

Termination of parental rights in Texas is the legal process by which a court ends the official parent-child relationship between a child and his or her parent. This process should not be confused with the awarding of sole custody, which is the process by which one parent is granted guardianship of the child and decision-making responsibilities, but visitation rights of the other parent remain. Both termination and custody proceedings are initiated through a lawsuit called Suit Affecting Parent-Child Relationship, also known as a “SAPCR”.

Grounds for Termination

As a father, it is imperative to have complete understanding of the termination process as the consequences of this act are severe and difficult to reverse. Grounds for termination include the court’s determination that termination is in the best interest of the child, in conjunction with:

  • Voluntary abandonment of the child
  • Knowingly placing the child in harmful conditions
  • Failing to support the child for a period of one year ending within six months of the filing of a termination SAPCR
  • Failure to enroll the child in school
  • Being absent from the child’s home without consent of the other parent or guardian
  • An unrevoked affidavit of relinquishment on file as provided by the Texas Family Code
  • Conviction or being placed on community service or deferred adjudication for crimes against children within Title 3 of the Texas Penal Code
  • Having your parent-child relationship terminated with respect to another child per certain provisions of law
  • Failure to complete required substance abuse treatment programs or continuing to abuse substances following the completion of such program
  • Knowingly engaging in criminal conduct that results in conviction and being imprisoned or otherwise unable to care for the child for more than two years from the date of SAPCR filing
  • Murder or attempted murder of the child’s other parent

Legal Challenges Facing Fathers

As a father, you must be aware of your rights as a parent, as well as defenses against potential claims to end your relationship with your child. For many men familiar with divorce or child custody disputes, it often feels as though the legal system is working against you.

Only 17.5% of fathers are designated as the custodial parent of their children following divorce. While over half of custodial mothers are awarded court-ordered child support, only around a third of custodial fathers are awarded the same –and of that third, only around 9% of fathers actually receive the court-awarded support amount. With the plethora of challenges to fathers rights in Texas, intimate understanding the family court system is a must.

Court Order Required for Termination

When defending your rights as a father, it is necessary to understand how those rights could be taken away. Termination of parental rights in Texas is only able to be effected via court
order.

There are affidavits by which a parent may voluntarily agree to limit their parental rights. First is the Affidavit of Voluntary Relinquishment, by which the parent agrees that a court should terminate his or her interest to a child. A parent may also sign an Affidavit of Waiver of Interest, by which the parent agrees to give up any interest he or she has to a child.

Even if a father signs either of these affidavits, parental rights are actually not terminated until a judge signs a court order terminating those rights. Voluntary relinquishments on their own are insufficient to terminate fathers rights in Texas, so even if you have signed one of these affidavits, know that you still have rights prior to the issuance of a court order.

Be Informed About Protective Orders

Perhaps the single most damaging weapon that is wielded against fathers during custody disputes is the protective order. These legal orders are frequently issued by courts in situations where claims of domestic violence have been alleged. These legal orders require the subject of the order to cease acts of harm and limit contact between the alleged abuser and his or her victims.

Within the context of custody disputes, research has shown that a staggering 70% of abuse allegations are found to be unnecessary or false. Men bear the brunt of the majority of these allegations, making the defense of fathers rights in Texas even more challenging. Protective orders are far too often used as a tool to separate innocent men from their children.

In order for a protective order to be issued, a minimal “preponderance of evidence” is typically all that is required. Therefore, the claimant merely must establish that it is more likely than not that the alleged abuse took place. Since these orders are done on an emergency basis, also known as “ex parte”, the alleged abuser does not get a chance to defend himself or herself, allowing myriad opportunity for an unscrupulous claimant to take advantage of the justice system.

What to Do in the Event of a False Abuse Claim?

It is critical that fathers understand how to protect themselves against false claims of abuse in order to avoid termination of parental rights in Texas. As soon as you learn of a claim of abuse or the issuance of a protective order, it is critical to act immediately. Contact an attorney who specializes in defending fathers rights in Texas, and share with them all of the information you have regarding the claim.

Your attorney will be best suited to guide you with your defense, but will likely advise you to begin gathering evidence to present at your hearing. Texts, emails, recordings and similar materials may support your case or demonstrate the other parent’s lack of fitness to be custodian of your child. It is not uncommon for men to capture evidence showing that the other parent had been threatening to falsely claim abuse in order to gain an advantage within court proceedings or for other ulterior motives.

Most importantly, make sure to maintain your composure throughout the legal process. Avoid the temptation to lash out at your accuser in response to a false claim, and thereby establishing the poor conduct that the claimant is attempting to attach to you. Follow the protective order as directed while it is in place, and focus your energy on ways to better your situation with your children moving forward. Uphold your equanimity at court hearings and visibly show the court that you are not the abuser that you have been labeled. With the help of your attorney, you should be able to demonstrate to the court that you are a loving, supportive father who deserves parental rights and belongs in the lives of your children.

Invaluable Father-Child Bond

Too frequently the importance of a child’s bond with their father is understated. Studies have shown that fathers greatly contribute to the well-being and development of their children. When fathers are allowed to be supportive of their children and involved in their lives, language skills, social development, cognition, self-esteem and other developmental markers, show improvement.

The relationships of fathers with their children frequently set the tone for children’s relationships with others throughout their lives. Children who have good relationships with their fathers also tend to have less behavioral problems, including reduced alcohol and drug abuse issues.

If you find yourself facing termination of parental rights in Texas, make sure to find an attorney who appreciates the importance of your fatherly relationship with your child. You will need an advocate who understands the court system and is willing to fight for your rights –not just as a parent, but specifically in your infinitely important role as a father.

Protect Yourself from Termination of parental rights in Texas

Contact Ramos Law immediately if you are dealing with an issue involving potential termination of parental rights in Texas. We will vigorously defend your rights as a father and guide you through the nuanced challenges facing men during difficult child custody proceedings.

Sources:

  1. http://www.statutes.legis.state.tx.us/Docs/FA/htm/FA.161.htm
  2. https://www.census.gov/content/dam/Census/library/publications/2016/demo/P60-255.pdf
  3. http://www.ecdip.org/docs/pdf/IF%20Father%20Res%20Summary%20(KD).pdf
  4. http://www.saveservices.org/downloads/False-DV-Allegations-Cost-20-Billion
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After a divorce, getting your life back on track can be a challenging process, especially if you’re trying to move out of state and navigate a custody agreement. Before you move out of state with your kids, read our blog to learn more about the process to ensure that you are operating within Texas family law.

If you still have questions, or would like to schedule a consultation with one of our attorneys to help you work through this process, please contact us today.

Moving Out of State with Custody and an Agreeable Spouse

First and foremost, if your spouse is agreeable to you relocating to another state with your kids, then you will be free to do. The divorce decree would have to specify that you are the conservator with the exclusive right to determine the primary residence without regard to geographic location or within a certain geographic area that includes the area to which you would like to relocate.

Please keep in mind that an agreement with your spouse could include a geographic restriction that includes more than one place. For example, you could agree to a geographic restriction that says that you have the right to establish the child’s residence within Houston (Harris and its contiguous counties) and/or your hometown.

Can I Move if My Spouse Is Not Agreeable?

If your spouse is not agreeable, it is likely that your ability to move could be restricted to a geographical area.

Section 153.001(a) of the Texas Family Code states:

The public policy of this state is to:

  1. assure that children will have frequent and continuing contact with parents who have shown the ability to act in the best interest of the child;
  2. provide a safe, stable, and nonviolent environment for the child; and
  3. encourage parents to share in the rights and duties of raising their child after the parents have separated or dissolved their marriage.

When rendering an order appointing parents as joint managing conservators, the court shall designate on conservator as the one the has the exclusive right to determine the primary residence of the child. Additionally, the court shall specify either the geographic area within which that conservator can establish the child’s primary residence or that the conservator can establish the child’s primary residence without regard to geographic area.

Factors the Court May Consider

The Texas Family Code does not explicitly state the factors a trial court should consider in deciding whether a geographic restriction would be in the best interest of the child. However, there are a number of things that courts have looked at in the past, including, but not limited to the following:

Reasons for and against the move

  • The opportunities afforded by the move
  • Whether the move could assist in meeting the child’s special needs or unique talents
  • The effect of move on relationships with extended family
  • The effect on the noncustodial parent’s visitation and communication with the child
  • The child’s age
  • The noncustodial parent’s ability to relocate

Also, it is important to note that even if you are appointed as sole managing conservator of your child the court still can restrict the ability to designate the primary residence of the child. Although the section of the Texas Family Code that deals with the appointment of the rights and duties of a parent who is appointed sole managing conservator does not specifically mention a geographic restriction, it does say that the rights can be limited by order of the court.

Schedule a Consultation

If you’re still unsure about whether you’re legally within your rights to move out of the state under your custody arrangement, make sure you consult with an experienced Texas family law attorney before you make any decisions. To speak with one of our attorneys regarding whether you can move out of the state with your children, please contact us today.

If you’re going through a divorce and you and your spouse have children, it’s important to take parenting classes to learn how to communicate effectively to serve their best interests. However, the court may also require that you and your spouse attend classes as part of an agreement made with your child custody lawyer. Above, board certified family law attorney Mary E. Ramos outlines a few of the benefits of parenting classes during a divorce in Texas.

Parenting After Your Divorce

There is a four-hour parenting class that’s required and depending on the court, you may be required to attend multiple classes. Our attorneys encourage clients to take these classes early on, so that they have that knowledge and information to utilize during the case. The parenting class doesn’t teach you how to be a parent, but it teaches you how to communicate in two different households. This is where you can leverage the benefits of parenting classes.

It can be hard enough to discipline children in one household; in two separate households, being able to discipline and communicate with your children can become extremely difficult. Children of divorce will learn how to manipulate their parents, and parents, despite their separation, need to be on the same page with how they’re going to move forward and address these issues.

If divorced parents don’t talk to each other, children will pick up on it and start to say what each parent wants to hear. If you are on the same page with the other parent, you can address concerns you have with your children directly with the other parent — not through your child. It’s a better way to protect your child from being impacted with the divorce process. Regardless of your divorce, you’re going to be a co-parent for the rest of your life.

Contact Our Team Today

Choosing a divorce lawyer and going through a divorce can be one of the most emotionally challenging events in one’s life, and attending co-parenting courses with your spouse will be no different. Yet the benefits of parenting classes during a divorce extend well beyond satisfying the orders of the judge; it’s important to put the wellbeing of your children front and center to help them with this difficult transition.

If you have more questions about parenting classes during a divorce in Texas, or you need the expert advice of a board certified family law attorney, schedule an appointment with Ramos Law Group, PLLC, today.

Video Transcription:

Normally when parents have an issue with communicating with each other, there is a great website that a lot of attorneys and judges use, called OurFamilyWizard. Now this is an online calendaring program where both parties can actually log in and create an account for their children. On this website, they can post the children’s extracurricular activities, doctors’ appointments, they can even include requests for exchanges of weekends and whether or not the other custodial parent will actually accept or deny those exchanges. And you can post uninsured medical expenses all to the same website.

One of the benefits is that you can’t go in and change the information from the website and if a judge wants to, they can always log in, and look, and review the communications between the parties. If you have a disagreement about whether or not you exchanged weekends, or agreed to a different schedule other than your order that’s in place, you can also refer to the website as a means of documenting what happens.

I also like clients to consider using this website because when you come in for a divorce, you have to create a story and a history of your relationship, and address the concerns that you’ve had with the other parent, regarding your children or any other situation. If you maintain participation through Our Family Wizard website, then that’s all been documented for you, and you can just hit print and we will have all of that documentation ready to go, and it’s in admissible form for the court. The courts now are actually requiring a lot of parties to participate through Our Family Wizard, and this is a good way to keep everybody accountable for their actions.

Ramos Law Group, PLLC, your family law team of experts.

Video Transcription by Speechpad.com

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Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS) is the deliberate attempt by a parent to destroy the relationship between their children and the other parent. The alienating parent’s goal is to destroy the children’s bond with the other parent and establish themself as “the best parent.”

Parental Alienation Syndrome does not occur over night. It is a systematic process which ultimately results in the destruction of a child’s relationship with the other parent. Parental Alienation Syndrome is frequently observed in hotly contested child custody cases and it is important that parents and attorneys are vigilant as to the symptoms of PAS. Some of the signs of PAS include:

  1. Negative statements about the other parent in front of the child or children. A parent who is exhibiting behaviors symptomatic of PAS will do their best to put the other parent in a negative light by making negative comments about the other in front of the children. This behavior results in the children mimicking the sentiments of the alienating parent.
  2. Involving the children in the pending litigation puts parental alienation syndrome in court. A divorce or custody battle is a matter between two adults. Children should not be privy to the details of a battle between their parents and a parent who willfully exposes a child to such details is often attempting to tarnish the child’s relationship with their other parent.
  3. Refusal to Co-Parent. Co-parenting is an integral part of raising a child and a parent who refuses to co-parent is often not concerned with the best interest of the child, but only destroying the bond.

A divorce or custody battle is already emotionally trying time for a child. A parent who inflicts the above behaviors is inflicting parental alienation syndrome, which will only increase the turmoil that a child goes through. If you believe that the other parent is exhibiting signs of parental alienation, please contact the Ramos Law Group, PLLC.

Recommended Resources:

Welcome Back, Pluto

  • Understanding, Preventing, and Overcoming Parental Alienation™

We recommend that both parents learn about parental alienation syndrome  as there are several levels and for the most part we are all guilty of PAS of some form.    At our firm, we recommend that clients watch the “Welcome Back, Pluto” video by Dr . Richard A. Warshak which helps parents understand, prevent and overcome parental alienation (Warshak, Welcome Back Pluto).

Chapter Titles:

  1. What is alienation?
  2. Understanding alienated children
  3. Mistakes favored parents make
  4. What’s in a name?
  5. Understanding favored parents.
  6. The plight of rejected parents.
  7. Tips for parents
  8. Tips for kids

Divorce Poison – Signs of Parental Alienation Syndrome

  • How to Protect Your Family from Bad-mouthing and Brainwashing

He is also the author of “Divorce Poison” which is another guide to help a parents prevent and overcome parental alienation.   If your spouse is bad-mouthing you to your children it is critical that you choose the correct approach in addressing the issue.   Handling the issue poorly could lead to losing your children’s respect and affection (Warshak, Divorce Poison).

This title offers specific advice to protect children from Parental Alienation Syndrome.  In it, you will learn (Warshak, Divorce Poison):

  • How to respond when your children join forces with your ex
  • How to react if your children refuse to see you
  • How to answer rude and hateful behavior
  • How to insulate children from the harmful effects of bad-mouthing
  • How to identify and correct your own contributions to parent-child conflicts
  • How to defend against false accusations of brainwashing
  • How to choose the best therapist and lawyer
  • How reconcile with children after years of estrangement

Works Cited

Warshak, Richard A., Dr. “Divorce Poison: How to Protect Your Family from Bad-mouthing and Brainwashing.” Divorce Poison. Dr. Warshak, n.d. Web. 30 May 2013.

Warshak, Richard A., DR. “Welcome Back, Pluto Understanding, Preventing, and Overcoming Parental Alienation™.” Welcome Back, Pluto. Dr. Warshak, n.d. Web. 30 May 2013.

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