Family Law

How Does a Court Decide Child Custody?

Child Custody | Divorce | Family Law

When it involves children, one of the most stressful aspects of divorce is child custody. When it comes to determining custody, there are several factors that are taken into consideration in order to make the decision that is most appropriate in each situation.

Child-Specific Issues

When a child has special needs, these will be taken into consideration by the court when assigning custody so that the best possible care can be provided. Here are a few of the special needs that are recognized by Texas courts:

  • Physical handicap
  • Mental disorders
  • Behavioral problems
  • Learning disabilities

Parental Capacity

Under Texas law, favor is given to the parent who is best able to show that he or she can give priority to the child’s welfare over everything else. This includes meeting the physical, mental and emotional needs of the child as well as having the capacity to make decisions that are in the best interests of the child. The following are some of the factors that could be used to show that a parent is not culpable:

  • History of abuse or neglect
  • Current substance abuse
  • Abandonment
  • Mental illness
  • Prior criminal history

Other Factors

A number of other factors come into play when determining which parent should have custody. Texas courts also examine issues like:

  • Age of a child
  • Whether there are siblings from another marriage
  • Whether both parents participated in child-rearing prior to separation
  • Relationship between the parties
  • Geographic location of parents and extended family members
  • Preference of the child if he or she is at least 14 years of age

It is important to note that when considering the child’s preference, courts will also try to determine whether this choice has been unduly influenced. The older a child is, the more likely the court is to give merit to individual preferences.

Parental Agreement

Parents are encouraged to agree on custody and visitation matters whenever possible. Even so, if the court feels the agreement reached by the parents does not operate in the best interest of the child, it can deny the petition. In most cases, a judge will ask parents to renegotiate between themselves and come to a more suitable agreement. If this is not possible, the court will hear oral arguments from both parents and render a decision.

Custody is a complicated matter no matter what the child’s age is. Those who have concerns about how child custody issues will be handled should seek legal advice from Houston divorce attorney Mario Madrid at 713-877-9400.

Divorce Laws in Texas

Divorce | Family Law

Deciding to dissolve a marriage is never easy. A person who is unhappy in marriage and is contemplating a divorce can get his or her questions answered by a Texas divorce attorney.

Residency Requirements

In Texas, a person who petitions for a divorce must be a lawful resident in the state for at least six months prior to requesting a dissolution of marriage. The petitioner must also have resided in the county where the petition is filed for at least 90 days prior to doing so. It is irrelevant where the other spouse resides.

Valid Reasons for Divorce

In Texas, the petitioner must show proper grounds for divorce. Some of the valid reasons for divorce include:

  • Adultery or philandery
  • Living apart for more than three years
  • Confinement of one spouse in a mental institution for at least three years
  • Abandonment: This happens when one spouse completely leaves the other for more than one year and has no intention to return.
  • Cruelty: This occurs whenever one spouse is vicious or callous towards the other. Cruelty does not have to include actual acts of violence.
  • Conviction for a felony: If one spouse has been convicted of a felony that results in more than one year in confinement, it may be grounds for divorce.

No-Fault Divorce

The court may also grant a no-fault divorce to couples who have no other grounds. In order to qualify for a no-fault divorce, there must be an extreme disconnect between the spouses’ personalities that makes it impossible to reconcile or live together harmoniously.

Division of Property

One of the issues that will be addressed in a divorce decree is the division of marital property. Since Texas is a community property state, any property that is obtained by one spouse during the marriage equally belongs to the other. This does not always amount to an even 50/50 split, as the court will take other factors into consideration, such as:

  • Inherited property
  • Income and earnings of both spouses
  • The property was obtained while domiciled in another state
  • There was a written agreement between the spouses

Child Custody

Whenever the marriage involves underage children, child custody must also be settled in a final decree of dissolution. Parents are encouraged to settle this matter amicably among themselves whenever possible, but if this cannot be done, the court will intervene and determine custody matters. Even if parents are able to agree on custody, a judge may overturn the decision if he feels that the conditions of the agreement are not in the best interests of the children.

Those who are concerned about how divorce will affect the various aspects of their lives should schedule a consultation with attorney Mario Madrid at 713-877-9400.