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When you find yourself in the middle of a child custody dispute, the emotional challenges and legal proceedings can feel overwhelming.

The Dodson Law Firm, PLLC understands what you are going through and the stakes involved. Our Houston child custody lawyers can guide you through your family law dispute while always prioritizing your child’s best interests.

With years of experience handling child custody cases throughout Texas, we work tirelessly to get the results you’re hoping for. Contact us today to request a consultation.

How Child Custody Works in Texas

Parents should grasp some key terms and legal principles before moving forward with child custody cases in Texas.

Here are a few terms to know:

  • Conservatorship (custody): Refers to the rights and duties of parents in making decisions for their child.
  • Possession and Access: Describe each parent’s time with the child and the right to access the child’s information.
  • Visitation: The schedule of when a parent without “primary” custody spends time with the child.

Joint Managing Conservatorship (JMC)

Texas courts presume in most cases that JMC is in the child’s best interest. Under this arrangement, both parents share decision-making responsibilities and work together to make important choices about the child’s upbringing, education, and medical care.

However, even in JMC, one parent may be granted the exclusive right to determine the child’s primary residence, which can significantly impact issues like schooling and travel.

According to the Texas Family Code § 153.131:

“It is a rebuttable presumption that the appointment of the parents of a child as joint managing conservators is in the best interest of the child.”

This principle means that unless evidence suggests otherwise, the family court will generally start from the position that both parents should play an active role in their child’s life.

Sole Managing Conservatorship (SMC)

Sometimes, a judge may grant SMC to one parent, giving them exclusive rights to decide for the child.

SMC typically occurs when the court determines that JMC would significantly impair the child’s physical health or emotional well-being, often due to factors such as a history of domestic violence, substance abuse, or severe parental conflict.

Under Texas Family Code § 153.004, the court must:

“consider evidence of the intentional use of abusive physical force, or evidence of sexual abuse, by a party directed against the party’s spouse, a parent of the child…when determining conservatorship and possession”

If a family law judge discovers a history or pattern of family violence, he or she must consider the safety and well-being of the child and the abused parent in determining possession and access.

Other Considerations

Texas courts may also consider many factors outlined in the Texas Family Code when determining custody arrangements, including:

  • The child’s desires (if they are of sufficient age and maturity to express a preference).
  • The parental abilities and involvement of each parent.
  • The stability of each parent’s home environment.
  • Each parent’s plans for the child’s future.
  • Any history of domestic violence or abuse.

It’s important to note that while a judge may hear the child’s wishes, this factor is just one among many. Family courts ultimately base their decisions on what they believe to be in the child’s best interest.

Our Approach to Your Houston Child Custody Case

At Dodson Law Firm, PLLC we understand that every family is unique. That’s why we commit to understanding your specific situation and goals.

During your initial consultation with us, you can expect:

  • Your Houston child custody attorney will listen to your story, answer your questions, and discuss your case options.
  • Open communication to promote a successful outcome.

Our team will guide you through the legal process from start to finish. We’ll build your case through evidence gathering in discovery, witness interviews, and collaboration with experts like psychologists, therapists, and social workers to create compelling arguments on your behalf.

Let us leverage our deep understanding of Texas child custody laws and courtroom procedures to protect your parental rights.

Modifying Child Custody Orders in Houston

Even after a child custody order is in place, changing circumstances may require arrangement modification.

You may need to seek changes to your existing custody or visitation schedule as your child grows and your family’s needs evolve.

Some common reasons for modifying child custody orders include:

  • Parental relocation due to a new job, marriage, or other significant life change.
  • Substantial changes in your child’s needs, preferences, or educational requirements.
  • Parental misconduct, such as abuse, neglect, or substance abuse issues, which impact your child’s safety and well-being.
  • Improvements in a parent’s circumstances, such as completing rehab or anger management programs.

If you need to modify a child custody order, speak with a knowledgeable Houston child custody lawyer who can take on the legal process and show the court why the change is in your child’s best interest.

Dodson Law Firm, PLLC family law attorneys have extensive experience handling modification cases, and we can help you form the arguments needed to support your request.

Frequently Asked Questions

How is child support determined in Texas?

Our state calculates child support based on a percentage of the non-custodial parent’s net income and the number of children involved. The court may also consider additional factors, such as the child’s specific needs, the parents’ resources and financial obligations, and any extraordinary expenses related to education, healthcare, or extracurricular activities.

What can I do if my ex isn’t following our custody order?

If your former spouse has violated the terms of your custody order or visitation arrangement, such as denying visitation, failing to pay support, or making important decisions without your input, you can ask the courts to enforce the order. Judges hearing motions of enforcement may impose penalties such as fines, makeup visitation time, or even jail time for parties found to be in contempt of court.

How do I establish paternity in Texas?

Establishing paternity is a necessary step in protecting your parental rights and ensuring your child has access to the support and resources they need.

In Texas, you can establish paternity in several ways, including through voluntary acknowledgment executed by both parents, which is ratified by a Court Order establishing paternity, or through a procedure based on genetic testing, which is later ratified by a Court Order. Our family law firm can guide you through the process and help you understand your paternity rights and options.

What are my rights as a non-custodial parent?

Non-custodial parents in Texas have the right to regular visitation unless the courts find that it would endanger the child’s physical or emotional well-being. You also have the right to be informed about your child’s education, health, and welfare and to have input into important decisions affecting their upbringing.

Consult a Houston Child Custody Attorney

Fighting a child custody battle may be one of the most stressful and emotional experiences you’ll face in your life. The Dodson Law Firm, PLLC provides skilled legal representation and compassionate support to needy parents during these difficult times.

For years, our Houston child custody lawyers have helped families like yours achieve the best possible outcome in custody cases. Let us hear your story, and we will work with you to develop a tailored legal strategy to protect your parental rights and your child’s well-being.

Contact the Dodson Law Firm, PLLC, today if you’re facing a child custody dispute in Houston or the surrounding areas and schedule your consultation with one of our experienced child custody attorneys. With our help, you’ll make better decisions about your case and secure a brighter future for you and your child.