Our children are the most important asset we will ever have. Our team deals with child custody suits on a daily basis, and the parents that are trying to figure out what the relationship after separation will be like when there is a child involved. In Texas, Child Custody Suits fall in two formats – either as part of a Divorce or as an independent suit often referred to as a “SAPCR” or Suit Affecting the Parent Child Relationship.
In Texas, the law refers to child custody as “conservatorship.” There is a presumption in the Texas Family Code that parents should be named as “Joint Managing Conservators.” This means that each parent has equal rights concerning the child such as the right to speak to teachers or get copies of medical records. There is only one right that must be given to a single conservator – the right to designate the primary residence of the child. This is what 99% of “custody” law suits are about. There is also an option, if the parents can agree, that no parent designates the primary residence of the child, and instead, the parties and child are subject to living within a certain area as long as the child is under the jurisdiction of the Court.
If a parent desires, he or she may request that the Court appoint only one parent as the “Sole Managing Conservator” of the child. This does not terminate a parent’s rights, but it can limit them. In order to qualify for such a request, very specific facts must be present in your case. You should discuss your feelings and facts with us if you feel that the other parent’s rights should be limited for any reason.
Visitation is probably the second most contested matter when it comes to children. In Texas, the legislature has put into law what is called the “Standard Possession Order.” This is the minimum reasonable amount of time the lawmakers believe a parent who does not designate the primary residence of the child should have.
The Standard Possession Order consists of possession on the first, third and fifth weekends of each month as well as a week day possession on Thursdays, thirty days during the summer time and alternating holiday schedules. But as attorneys we know that visitation is not a one size fits all situation, so we have come up with various options to fulfill our client’s needs over the years.
Many times, these optional visitation schedules will be agreed to by the parties because it does work better for both parents and both parents can see that it is in the best interest of their child to work together. We suggest you make an appointment to explore your options in more detail.
Child Support is also part of Divorce involving children or an original suit concerning the parent and child relationship. Again, Texas has codified what if commonly referred to as “Guideline Support.” The amount of support based on a percentage of income and the total number of children both part of the law suit as well as those who are not part of it.
Again, though, Child Support may not be as black and white as the legislature intended. There are always other factors to consider. Talking with us about your options in always the best move.
Texas requires that all children under the jurisdiction of a court order have health insurance regardless of whether it is provided by the State or a private individual. This requirement means that the person paying child support also has an obligation to either provide health insurance or pay a medical support amount that is reasonable.
It is the option of the parent providing support to either provide private insurance or pay a medical support amount. The amount paid cannot exceed 9% of the parents net income regardless of whether the insurance is provided by the State or a private carrier. Furthermore, the party providing insurance or medical support also receives a deduction off of his or her gross income when calculating regular child support.
Provisions concerning uninsured medical costs are also covered by a child custody order along with provisions for notification and failure to comply with insurance requirements. These terms and conditions can be discussed more in depth during a consultation with us.
Texas does have some provisions for grandparents. Although the provisions related to grandparent access are strict. There is still the possibility that a grandparent may have rights to their grandchild. Texas allows for two separate types of law suits for grandparent custody or possession.
The first is what is called an Intervention. In an intervention, the Court may allow a grandparent to enter the suit and seek to be named as a Managing Conservator of the grandchild. In this situation, the grand parent must overcome the presumption that naming the parents as Joint Managing Conservators, or naming one parent as the Sole Managing Conservator would not be in the child’s best interest. It is a heavy burden, but can and has been done. The best interest of the child is always the deciding factor in any child custody case.
The second option is to seek an independent suit for Grandparent Access. This does not give a grandparent legal rights to a child like a parent, but it does allow for contact between a grandparent and grandchild. In order to qualify for such a suit the grandparent of the grandchild must be the parent of the child and the parent of the child must:
1. Have been incarcerated for at least three months;
2. Have been found to be incompetent;
3. Have died; or
4. Have no actual or court ordered contact with the child.
Additionally, the parent’s rights cannot have been terminated and the grandparent must still overcome the parental presumption that a parent is acting in the chlid’s best interest by establishing that denial of access would significantly impair the grandchild’s physical health or emotional well-being.
These types of lawsuits are difficult to maintain and require very specific facts in order to establish the necessary proof required by the Court to proceed. If you are a grandparent seeking to have contact with your grandchild, it is very important that you discuss the matter with a family law attorney that has handled this situation. At the Wright Reneau Law Firm, we have handled these cases over the years even though the law has changed multiple times.