Articles Posted in coparenting

iStock-1163040189-300x200When parents cannot cooperate to make decisions regarding the children in a Texas custody case, the court may give one parent certain decision-making rights, even if the parents are joint managing conservators.  In a recent case, a father challenged a court order requiring him to cooperate in the children’s activities and to pay for half of the children’s tutoring expenses.

The parents were named joint managing conservators of the children in the divorce decree with a modified standard possession order. The mother was granted the exclusive right to designate their primary residence and the father ordered to pay child support.  Each parent was responsible for half of any extracurricular activity the parents agreed upon.

Mother Files Modification Suit

The mother petitioned for modification in 2018, seeking the right to make certain decisions after consulting with the father, continuation of certain extracurricular activities, and therapy for the children.  In a counterpetition, the father asked the court to give him the right to designate the primary residence and receive child support.  He also asked that the mother be required to schedule extracurricular activities only while she had the children.

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iStock-1183307633-300x169Generally, when a parent wants to modify the parent-child relationship over the objection of the other parent, they must show the court that there has been a material and substantial change in circumstances and that the modification is in the child’s best interest.  Often, modifications address major issues, such as where the child lives or the amount of child support. Modifications can address a variety of issues, however, including things like which parent makes medical or education decisions or whether a parent can travel with the child.

A father recently challenged a court order allowing a mother to travel internationally with the child.  According to the appeals court’s opinion, the parents were named joint managing conservators of the child when they divorced in 2017.  The mother was granted primary custody.  The following year, the mother petitioned for a modification, requesting the right to get a passport for the child and take her to visit her maternal grandfather in The Gambia.  The father objected and the trial court denied the request.

Mother Leaves Child with Relative During International Trip

The mother went to see her parents in The Gambia in July 2019.  She testified the father did not respond when she notified him she planned to travel, so she left the child with an aunt in Chicago.

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5thingsdivorcecourt_headerA court should consider a number of factors in deciding a Texas custody case.  Even when the court determines the parents should be joint managing conservators, the court does not have to award equal periods of possession and access to the child to each parent. Tex. Fam. Code § 153.135.  Under Texas law, there is a rebuttable presumption that the standard possession order serves the child’s best interests.  Tex. Fam. Code § 153.252.  A father recently challenged the divorce decree giving the mother the right to designate the child’s primary residence and awarding him the standard possession order.

Trial Court Initially Awards Father Primary Custody

According to the appeals court’s opinion, the parties’ child was born about three months after they married in 2014.  The parties separated in 2016 and the mother petitioned for divorce in March 2017. The court signed temporary order giving the father the exclusive right to designate the child’s primary residence in Travis County.

At the custody hearing, there was evidence the mother had sustained a serious brain injury the previous year.  There was significant testimony about her mental health before and after the separation and about how her injury affected her ability to take care of the child.

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iStock-1252096710A parent’s behavior may affect their rights to access and possession of their child in a Texas custody case.  In a recent case, the trial court’s order provided that the schedule would change if the child had a certain number of unexcused absences or instances of tardiness while in the mother’s care.

According to the appeals court’s opinion, the trial court entered a custom possession order (CPO) as part of a modification order at the end of January 2020.  Pursuant to the CPO, the father had the right to possession of the child from Wednesday morning to Friday morning each week and from Friday morning to Monday morning every other weekend, and the parents alternated holidays and school breaks.  The CPO also provided that the mother’s possession schedule would change to the Standard Possession Schedule if the child had a total of any combination of five unexcused absences and “tardies” from school, as determined by the school, while in the mother’s possession.

Father Moves to Impose Standard Possession Order

The father moved to confirm and clarify the order and requested an injunction in April 2020.  He alleged the child had been tardy five days and absent two days during the fall semester of 2019.  He asked the court to confirm and clarify that the standard possession schedule was in effect and to grant an injunction.

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iStock-1139699594When a court considers Texas child custody and visitation, the child’s best interest is the primary concern.  The court considers certain factors, including what the child wants, the child’s current and future needs, any danger to the child, the parents’ respective abilities, programs available, the parents’ plans for the child, stability, any acts or omissions indicating the relationship between the parent and child is not proper, and any excuse for those acts or omissions.

A father recently appealed a denial of his petition for modification and grant of the mother’s counterpetition.  At the time of the divorce, the trial court ordered the parties not to move from a specific area without a modification order or written agreement filed with the court.  Neither parent was given the exclusive right to designate the child’s primary residence.  Nonetheless, both parents moved outside of the geographical boundary after the divorce.

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In Texas custody cases, a court may only issue an order denying possession of a child or imposing restrictions or limitations on a parent’s right to possession to the extent necessary to protect the child’s best interest.  Tex. Fam. Code § 153.193. Thus, a court may only order that a parent’s visitation with a child be supervised if doing so is in the child’s best interest.

A father recently challenged a court’s denial of his request for supervised visitation and drug testing of the mother.

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Evidence is important in any case, including a Texas child-custody dispute.  In a recent case, a father challenged a trial court’s divorce decree based on the exclusion of certain evidence at trial.iStock-818445486

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iStock-839381426Texas family law includes a presumption that parents should be appointed joint managing conservators.  The law does not require, however, that the parents be given equal possession just because they are joint managing conservators.  Tex. Fam. Code § 153.135.  There is a rebuttable presumption that the standard possession order is in the child’s best interest, but that presumption only applies to children who are at least three years old.  For younger children, the court must consider “all relevant factors.”  The statute specifically requires the court consider who provided care before and during the proceedings, how separation from either party may affect the child, the availability and willingness of the parties to care for the child, and the child’s needs, along with other specified factors. Tex. Fam. Code § 153.254.

A father recently challenged the possession schedule and decision-making authority granted to the mother, arguing in part that the court should have awarded equal time or the standard possession schedule.

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A parent may want to change a child’s name for a number of reasons.  Texas family law allows a court to order the change of a child’s name if doing so is in the child’s best interest.  Tex. Fam. Code § 45.004(a).  Generally, courts should only order a child’s name change if it is needed for the child’s “substantial welfare.”  A mother recently appealed a court’s denial of her petition to change her children’s names from their father’s surname to her maiden name.

The parents divorced in 2011.  After allegations the father had abused the son in 2015, the mother had sole possession of both of the minor children. The mother petitioned in 2019 to change the children’s last name to her maiden name.  The children agreed to the change, but the father opposed it.  He argued they had his name since they were born and that they could change their names on their own when they are adults.

The mother testified she wanted to change the children’s names because she had grown up with her maiden name.  She said the children wanted to identify with her family’s name “to feel the closeness of [that] family.”  They had been using her name and wanted to legally change their names.  She testified that her maiden name is well respected in the area and having that name would be important when the children became involved with the family businesses.

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As COVID-19 (Coronavirus) becomes more and more ingrained as a daily part of our news cycle, its ability to affect our day-to-day lives continues. As of Monday, March 16, a total of 48 public school districts plus several religious academies across North Texas have elected to extend spring breaks until March 26 or longer. For many parents this begs the question, what do these school closures mean for my possession schedule?

According to the judges in Dallas County, Collin County, Denton County, and Tarrant County, the Standard Possession Schedule should follow the originally published school calendars, meaning there will be no extensions of time periods for parents who have the Spring Vacation possession due solely to recent changes.

As the situation and precautions surrounding this global pandemic continue to evolve, more questions regarding possession schedules and the potential need for additional childcare if schools remain closed will inevitably arise. Disagreements regarding the custody or possession of a child can be stressful and emotionally charged. We recommend consulting with your attorney regarding any questions concerning selecting substitute pick-up or drop-off locations or establishing alternative schedules before making any decisions with your co-parent or ex-spouse.

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