Are you a Houston parent that wants to win custody in your divorce case? Working with an experienced family law attorney can help you in your child custody battle. Our family law firm will work with you either through mediation to reach an agreement regarding your parenting plan or to help you gain full custody and child support in court.
Learn more about the different types of custody and factors that go into determining who will win child custody below.
There’s no one-size-fits-all custody arrangement; the terms of your final custody plan are supposed to be tailored to meet the needs of your family.
The final custody order should normally address both physical custody (which parent the child lives with) and legal custody (which parent has the right and obligation to make decisions about the child’s upbringing).
Most custody orders divvy up custody in one of the following ways:
- sole legal custody and sole physical custody to one parent
- sole physical custody and joint (shared) legal custody
- joint physical custody and joint legal custody, or
- sole legal custody and joint physical custody (rare).
When an order specifies that one parent has sole physical custody, the judge will typically create a visitation schedule to ensure the child has the opportunity to enjoy a meaningful relationship with the noncustodial parent.
Who Decides Custody?
As is the case with most family law issues, courts will give a lot of weight to any agreements that parents reach regarding child custody. If parents can work together to achieve a fair and proper custody arrangement, the judge will likely adopt it into a court order. Working together is the best opportunity for parents to control what happens to their families after a separation or divorce.
If you’ve tried talking with your spouse or participated in child custody mediation, but you still disagree on how to allocate custody and visitation, the court will decide for you. In most states, the judge must investigate and apply specific factors to every custody decision. Once the judge enters a child custody order, it is binding on and enforceable by both parents, even if one disagrees.
How Courts Make Custody Decisions
Almost all courts use a standard that gives the “best interests of the child” the highest priority when deciding custody issues. What a judge considers to be in the best interests of the child depends on many factors, including:
- the child’s age, sex, and mental and physical health
- each parent’s mental and physical health
- each parent’s lifestyle and other social factors,
- the emotional bond between each parent and child, as well as each parent’s ability to give the child guidance
- each parent’s ability to provide the child with food, shelter, clothing, and medical care
- the child’s established living pattern (school, home, community, religious institution)
- the quality of the child’s education in the current situation
- the impact on the child of changing the status quo, and
- the child’s preference if the child is mature enough to express an opinion.
Assuming that none of these factors favors one parent over the other, most courts tend to focus on which parent is likely to provide the child with a stable environment and better foster the child’s relationship with the other parent. When the child is young, this might mean awarding custody to the parent who has been the child’s primary caregiver. With an older child, the court’s best interests evaluation might lean in favor of the parent who can foster continuity in education, neighborhood life, religious life, and peer relationships.
In tough child custody cases—such as those where one parent is claiming that the other is “unfit”—judges might order a child custody evaluation. Parents can request a custody evaluation even when a judge doesn’t. A child custody evaluator can provide information and recommendations that will help the judge decide what’s in the child’s best interests.
Are there special issues if a gay or lesbian parent is seeking custody or visitation rights?
Generally, the court will consider a parent’s sexual orientation only if it negatively impacts the child. For example, suppose a child’s parent enters into an abusive relationship with a same-sex partner, causing the child to experience domestic violence that requires frequent moves between homes, hospitalizations, or police intervention. In that case, the court is less likely to award custody to that parent. Instead, the court will allocate parental responsibility to the other parent if the judge finds that parent to be “fit” under the law.
However, lesbian, gay, or transgender parents might still experience discrimination from judges who can’t set aside their own prejudices when evaluating what’s in a child’s best interests. These judges might be motivated by their own or community prejudices and might try to conceal the true reasons for their decisions by citing issues other than the lesbian or gay parent’s sexual orientation to deny custody or appropriate visitation.
Attorney Renken can help you win custody in your divorce case. Reach out to us today to learn more about how to resolve your divorce issues.
Affordable Family Lawyer Serving Houston, TX
Our team proudly serves the Greater Houston area, including but not limited to Brazos County, Cypress, Fort Bend County, Galveston, Houston Heights, Houston, Humble, Katy, Kingwood, Memorial Houston, Montgomery County, Montrose, Richmond, Rosenberg, Spring, The Woodlands. All marriages are different, making each divorce equally unique with its own set of needs that must be addressed. Contact our law office to explore your options moving forward, and find out how we can help you.