Child Custody Attorney in Southlake, TX
Dedicated Custody Lawyers Serving DFW
John and Jill Setzer have been serving as lawyers in Southlake and throughout the DFW region for decades. Our combined experience totals more than 30 years, and we apply all that experience to help our clients make it through some of life’s greatest struggles. Divorce and child custody battles are not easy, even in the best of circumstances. Despite the challenges, we can help you face the situation and work toward an agreement that protects your rights as a parent and provides what is best for your child or children. Contact us today to learn how our child custody attorneys can help you through your divorce or custody modification.
What Are the Different Types of Custody?
Custody in Texas is split into two different categories: conservatorship and possession/access.
- Conservatorship (also known as legal custody) defines who can make important decisions for the child, such as where they go to school, medical decisions, and decisions regarding psychiatric care.
- Possession (also known as physical custody) refers to who the child resides with, on what days the child is living with each guardian, and where the child spends holidays.
- Access refers to how often and under what circumstances a parent with only visitation rights can see the child.
Conservatorship is further split into two categories: sole managing conservatorship and joint managing conservatorship. Sole managing conservatorship means that only one parent/guardian makes all important decisions. In this case, the other parent is usually designated a “possessory conservator.” Joint managing conservatorship means that decision-making is split equally between the two parents.
Even if one parent is the sole managing conservator, the parents could still have shared physical custody. The parents may also be joint managing conservators, but one parent has physical custody most or all of the time. There are also less usual situations where a third party, such as a grandparent, is awarded sole managing conservatorship, thus designating both biological parents as possessory conservators. And if one parent is deemed harmful to the child, that parent may be stripped of any rights as a conservator altogether.
As you can see, defining and designating custody can be a complicated process. That’s why our Southlake child custody attorneys are here to help. We’ll help you formulate a custody plan that works best for the child or children, and we’ll help you present your case so that you get the possession and conservatorship rights that you deserve.
What Do Judges Look for in Child Custody Cases?
A judge’s job is to be as objective as possible and to prioritize the needs of the child above all else. In order to do this, they’ll emphasize specific factors in the custody battle. Most of these factors revolve around living essentials: food, clothing, shelter, safety, education, and mental well-being.
These essentials will be weighed against the age of the child, each parent’s living situation, each parent’s work and criminal history, the child’s preferences, and elements of each parent’s relationship with the child. That’s a lot to cover, but it helps the judge establish conditions.
The judge is likely to favor the parent who can demonstrate financial stability, general safety, and overall better care conditions for the child. Histories of abuse, violent crime, and unemployment can all weigh heavily in a judge’s ruling.
What Happens If a Parent Violates a Custody/Visitation Agreement?
This partially depends on the severity of the violation. There’s a difference between the other parent disappearing with the child and the other parent being a few minutes late one time for a drop-off. In general, the first violation will result in a warning. Most warnings will come with a layout of increasing punishments if the behavior isn’t amended.
In more severe cases, the judge can skip the warning and dole out legal consequences. These can include amendments to the custody or visitation agreement, fines, and even jail time. Obviously, the severity of the punishment will be intended to match the severity of the violation.
These types of rulings will only happen after you choose to involve the courts. The primary way to take a settled custody case back to court is to file a motion. This will get you under the review of a judge who will then determine what — if any — punishment is necessary in your situation.
How to Get a Child Custody or Visitation Modification
There are two ways to pursue child custody/visitation modifications: formally or informally. An informal modification involves you and the other parent coming to an agreement on your own terms. If you go this route, your modifications cannot contradict any court mandates in the original agreement. To do so is a violation of a court order and is punishable by law.
In most cases, even if you and the other parent agree on the changes, it’s best to get the court to log those changes to avoid any unintended consequences.
If you can’t come to an informal agreement, you can still pursue a court-ordered modification. This is potentially more challenging when the other parent opposes the changes. You can file for a court to review your case, and the modification will be heard. To successfully change a custody order, you have to demonstrate that circumstances have changed significantly since the original agreement was made. This can include a new job, a new family, or any number of other events. Realize that the burden to show why there should be a modification will be on you.
Contact Our DFW Custody Attorneys
Every child custody case is different. Parents may be close together or hundreds of miles apart. One parent may be traveling all the time. One parent may be abusive and need to be kept away from the child. Or perhaps you are a grandparent who feels neither parent is competent, so you want custody. Maybe your custody order used to work, but circumstances have changed, so you need it to be modified. Whatever your particular situation is, the custody lawyers at Setzer Law Firm can help. We’ve seen just about every type of child custody case, and we know how to overcome the unique challenges that may arise. Contact us today or visit our Southlake, TX family law office for effective and compassionate legal help.