Dallas-Fort Worth Area Child Custody Lawyer
Children are the highest priority for most parents who find themselves in the midst of divorce. To ensure that children are protected for the future, it is critical for parents to establish a custody schedule which aligns with the best interest of their child or children. In child custody cases, it is important to hire a lawyer who will fight for the best outcome for you and your family.
Patrick West Law Firm is committed to helping parents resolve difficult custody disputes while minimizing the potential negative impacts on the children involved. We utilize the services of outside experts, including psychologists, school officials and counselors, so that you are protected from any unexpected situations. Wherever possible, we recommend the use of alternative dispute resolution methods such as mediation to assist in resolving your custody case. Typically, neither party wins if a this kind of case becomes hotly contested in court.
Texas Child Custody Representation
In Texas, child custody is referred to as a conservatorship. Along with conservatorship comes various rights and responsibilities, including the right to make important decisions regarding your child’s welfare, access to school and medical records and the right to consent to any medical treatment for your child.
A conservatorship plan is established in one of two ways. One way to establish this plan is for the parents to reach an agreement on a visitation schedule and other important matters pertaining to their children. When parents reach an agreement, they will have the agreement reduced to writing in the form of a court order. Ultimately, the court must still approve the order and a judge will have to review the terms and decide if the order is in the best interest of the child. Typically, courts will approve voluntary conservatorship agreements between parents.
In cases where the parents cannot reach an agreement, the matter is scheduled before the court for a hearing on child custody. At these hearings, the court is guided by what is in the best interest of the child. In determining the child’s best interest, the court looks to a number of factors. Some of these factors include the physical and emotional needs of the child, the stability of each parent, the ability of the parents to cooperate with one another, the fitness of both parents, the geographical location of the parents and the availability of siblings and nearby extended family members. None of these factors are more important than the other. The court’s decision is guided by the specific facts of the individual case as each family’s situation is different.
In Texas conservatorship cases, there is a legal presumption that the court should order joint conservatorship whenever possible. However, this presumption is not automatic. In cases where there is evidence that the parents do not adequately cooperate with one another or co-parent effectively, the court may order sole conservatorship to one parent over the other. In a sole conservatorship case, one parent makes all important decisions, including medical, educational and religious decisions, which affect the health and welfare of the child.
In addition to conservatorship, the court also decides visitation, which is referred to in Texas as “possession and access.” Again, the presumption is that possession and access is shared between parents in the absence of any factors suggesting that one parent is not a fit and proper person to have shared possession and access. In cases involving unfit parents, the court may order one party to have possession and may restrict or eliminate the visitation rights of the other parent. Ultimately, in deciding possession and access cases, the court is guided by the best interest of the child standard.
Possession and access cases may be approached differently depending on the age and developmental stage of the child. A young child, such as a toddler, may need more frequent and shared access to both parents in order to form an equal bond with both. An older child, such as a teenager, is typically at the age to express a preference regarding where they wish to live. The judge is allowed to consider a child’s preference in a possession and access case. Generally, the older a child is, the more deference is given to their wishes. Texas courts are required to consider the wishes of a child age 12 or older. Children typically speak with the judge privately in chambers rather than testifying on the witness stand in open court.
Hire a Dallas Area Child Custody Lawyer
Your children are your most precious asset in a divorce. Hiring an experienced child custody lawyer is the best investment you can make in their future. The Patrick West Law Firm is committed to helping you and your children find a way through the stress and confusion of divorce proceedings. Our tough, but compassionate approach delivers results that meet or exceed the expectations of our clients. We serve Dallas,Fort Worth, Garland, Irving, Richardson, McKinney, Frisco, and Rockwall, as well as other cities in Dallas, Collin, Grayson, Denton, Tarrant, and Rockwall Counties.
To set up an appointment, please contact us at 817-332-2600 or complete our online contact form. We look forward to hearing from you.