If you are a parent going through a divorce or child custody matter, you know the situation is incredibly emotional and stressful. You may have concerns about your child’s future, and you might worry about losing the time you get to spend with them. You might be concerned the other parent may be unfit to raise your child. At Balekian Hayes, PLLC, we haven’t forgotten that the most important thing about being a family law attorney is caring about our clients and their families. We offer helpful legal advice and fight aggressively to ensure your parental rights are represented. 

What Decides Custody of a Child?

Texas physical custody cases are determined with the child’s best interest in mind. The child’s best interests could be widely varied, but the court generally breaks it down to three elements: emotional and physical needs, emotional and physical safety, and parental ability. 

The child custody agreement sets the physical and legal custody of your child. Children will live with the parent who is awarded physical custody. Legal custody will outline which parent makes decisions about health care, education, religion, and other important issues. Sometimes, Temporary Custody is determined during a separation or divorce, pending a final agreement. The court may determine temporary custody based on the child’s best interests. Some agreements may start as temporary but become permanent by a court of law.

Joint Legal custody allows parents equal care and control of the child’s upbringing, but the child has one primary residence. In Shared Physical Custody, the child has two homes, spending at least 35% of their time with the other parent. Joint Custody allows both parents equal say over decisions regarding a child’s upbringing and division of time that a child spends with each parent versus Shared Custody focuses on how much time the child has with each parent.

Where Do I Go to File for Custody of a Child?

The first step you should take when filing for custody of a child is to engage with an experienced family lawyer. By working with an experienced family lawyer from the start, you can ensure that your custody rights will be protected. Your lawyer will walk you through the Texas protocol to file for child custody. This process begins by filing a petition with the Dallas clerk of the court using a Suit Affecting the Parent-Child Relationship form. After this is filed and the accompanying fees are paid, the other parent will be notified that a petition has been filed. The other parent will be allowed to file an answer, counterpetition, or denial with the courts. Additional documents may be needed before the case can move to custody mediation or court. 

Can Child Custody be Changed?

If a significant life change happens, your child custody agreement or visitation can be modified. For instance, if one of the parents moves, gets a new job, or gets remarried, it might be necessary to revisit the original agreement. The court must approve any change, so we can help you explain to the judge why the requested modification should be allowed – or why they shouldn’t.