Articles Tagged with Custody

iStock-1271310078-300x200Under Texas family law, certain close relatives of a child may seek managing conservatorship if they can sufficiently show the child’s current circumstances would significantly impair the child physically or emotionally.  Tex. Fam. Code Ann. § 102.004(a)(1).  A sister recently sought custody of her siblings, asserting standing under § 102.004(a)(1).

Children’s Sister Seeks Custody After Mother’s Death

According to the appeals court’s opinion, the adult sister filed suit seeking to be named the sole managing conservator of her minor siblings a few weeks after her mother’s death.  She claimed she had standing to bring the suit because she was their sister and had “a close and substantial relationship with the children.”

The father asked the court to dismiss the case for lack of standing.  The sister amended her suit to claim standing pursuant to Tex. Fam. Code § 102.004(a)(1).  The sister attached to her brief a copy of her mother’s will, which named the sister and her husband as the children’s guardians.  The father attached a letter to his own brief which showed the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (“Department”) had ruled out allegations of abuse against him.

Continue Reading ›

judge-and-gavel-in-courtroom-171096040-583b48533df78c6f6af9f0e3-300x225A fit parent generally has the right to determine who has access to the child.  In some cases, however, people other than the parents may seek visitation or even custody of the child.  When someone other than a parent seeks rights in a Texas case, they must meet certain conditions.  In a recent case, a mother challenged a court’s orders granting possession and access to the child’s paternal grandmother.

According to the appeals court’s opinion, the trial court appointed the parents joint managing conservators and gave the father the exclusive right to determine the child’s primary residence.  The teenage parents and child lived with the paternal grandmother for about two years. Several months after the father went to prison, the mother and child moved out.

Mother Files Suit; Grandmother Intervenes

The mother petitioned for modification, seeking sole managing conservatorship.  The grandmother filed a petition in intervention, asking to be named joint managing conservator with the right to determine the child’s primary residence or possession and access in the alternative.

Continue Reading ›

iStock-839381426-300x200Texas family law includes a rebuttable presumption that appointing both parents as joint managing conservators is in the child’s best interest. Tex. Fam. Code § 153.131. The presumption can be rebutted upon a finding of a history of family violence.  A mother recently challenged a trial court’s order, arguing in part that the court failed to properly apply the presumption.

Paternity Suit Filed

The parents were not married when the child was born, but lived together until the father was deployed a few months later. The father did not move back in when he returned from his deployment.

The Office of the attorney general petitioned to establish the relationship between the father and the child.  The father was adjudicated to be the father and was given the exclusive right to designate the child’s primary residence with a geographic restriction in a temporary order.  The mother was given a standard possession order and required to pay child support.

Continue Reading ›

iStock-1033856542-300x200Some families choose to resolve custody manners informally.  When the parties are the biological parents, subsequent disputes can be resolved through a Texas custody case.  When one party is not biological parent, however, resulting disputes may be more complex. In a recent case, a maternal uncle and aunt appealed an order that required them to pay child support for their nephew.

When the child was born, the child’s biological mother asked her brother to act as the child’s father.  The brother signed an acknowledgment of paternity, birth certificate, and a verification of birth facts.  The birth certificate listed the brother’s wife as the mother.  Initially, they all lived together, but the mother moved out following a falling out with the couple.

Mother Files Paternity Suit

In August of 2016, the mother petitioned to adjudicate parentage, asking the court to adjudicate her as the mother and an identified man as the father.  The brother and his wife were named as parties, but they also intervened in the case, asking the court to name them the child’s managing conservators and terminate the mother and alleged father’s parental rights.

Continue Reading ›

5thingsdivorcecourt_header-300x163Tex. Fam. Code § 153.009(a) requires the court in a Texas custody case to interview a child who is at least 12 years old to determine their wishes regarding custody, “on the application of a party. . . “ A father recently challenged a court’s failure to interview the children in a custody case.

The mother petitioned to increase child support for the parties’ three teenage children and require the father to pay their extracurricular expenses.  The father asked to be named the primary managing conservator with the exclusive right to designate the children’s primary residence.

The parties stipulated that $2,760 was the amount the father should pay under the Texas Family Code’s “guidelines.” The trial court ordered the father to pay not only $2,760 monthly, but also half of the children’s extracurricular expenses. The trial court also denied his request to have the exclusive right to designate the children’s primary residence. Continue Reading ›

iStock-1175949984A trial court generally has broad discretion in deciding whether to impose a geographic restriction on the child’s primary residence in a Texas custody case.  A geographic restriction limits where the children’s primary residence may be.  As with other aspects of a custody case, the primary consideration is whether the restriction is in the best interest of the child. A geographic restriction can help ensure the child maintains relationships with the non-custodial parent, extended family, and the community.  In some cases, however, a parent may have good reasons to want to move with the child. The Texas Supreme Court has identified a number of factors in determining whether a move is in a child’s best interest: how it would affect relationships with extended family, how it would affect the non-custodial parent’s visitation and communication with the child, whether a meaningful relationship between the child and non-custodial parent could be maintained with a visitation schedule, the child’s current contact with both parents, the reasons for and against the move, the child’s age, the child’s ties to the community, and the child’s health and educational needs. Lenz v. Lenz.

A father recently appealed an order granting the mother the exclusive right to designate the primary residence without a geographic restriction when the mother intended to move out-of-state with the children.

Mother Offered Opportunity in Arizona

The trial court made several findings of fact. The trial court found the parents moved to Austin so the mother could attend graduate school and intended to stay there until she received her PhD. They had agreed to live there temporarily until the mother got a faculty position at a university.  She earned her PhD in 2012.  The parties’ twin children were born prematurely in 2013, and the mother took time to care for them instead of advancing her career.  During the marriage, she only applied for positions in cities where the father would also have potential job opportunities.  They agreed she should apply for a position in Arizona in 2018, but the job was not filled at that time. The parties separated in February 2019 and the mother continued to be primary caregiver.

Continue Reading ›

iStock-1147846829Grandparents sometime take on a parental role in the lives of their grandchildren.  In some circumstances, such grandparents may have standing (i.e., the right to sue) for possession and access to the children. Parents have a fundamental right to make decisions regarding their children, however. Generally, a court in a Texas custody case cannot interfere with a fit parent’s right to make decisions for their child by awarding access or possession to a non-parent over the fit parent’s objection, unless the nonparent overcomes the presumption that the fit parent is acting in the child’s best interest. In a recent case, a father challenged a court order naming the grandmother possessory conservator.

Prior Order Provides for Parental Rights and Custody

According to the appeals court’s opinions, the parents were joint managing conservators, with the mother having the exclusive right to determine the primary residence. The mother later became ill and the grandmother, who lived with her, cared for the children. When the mother died in January 2021, the  grandmother refused to return the children to the father. He obtained a Writ of Habeas Corpus.

The grandmother intervened and asked to be appointed sole managing conservator with possession or access to the children.  The father argued she grandmother did not meet the requirements for grandparent access under Tex. Fam. Code § 153.432 or managing conservatorship pursuant to Tex. Fam. Code § 102.004.

Continue Reading ›

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.

Continue Reading ›

This past summer, the United States Supreme Court issued its landmark decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, which held that under the U.S. Constitution, no state may forbid same-sex couples from marrying and that no state may refuse to accept the legality of same-sex marriages performed elsewhere.  This Supreme Court opinion, however, did not address issues regarding children of same-sex marriages/partnerships.  As evidenced below, much work still remains to be done in this regard. Continue Reading ›

For any of you Gossip Girl fans or parents of Gossip Girl fans, you probably remember Serena van der Woodsen’s mother, Lily van der Woodsen. Her real name is Kelly Rutherford, and her life is just as dramatic as the scenes of the popular TV show.

Rutherford’s marriage to Daniel Giersch in August 2006 has led to all sorts of personal trouble for her. They had their first son Hermes in October 2006. In 2008, she was pregnant again with their second child, but ended up filing for divorce from Daniel  in December of the following year. Their child, Helena, was born a few months after the date of filing. Since then, Kelly and Daniel have been in a seriously heated custody battle. Things took a major change in the divorce suit when in April 2012, Kelly’s attorney allegedly leaked information concerning Daniel’s improper business activity in the United States…which got him deported. Custody win for Kelly? Think again.

Continue Reading ›

Contact Information