When going through a child custody case, either as part of a divorce or independent child custody case, you need to be aware of portions of your case that can directly lead to problems. Planning out the stages of your Texas family law case is incredibly important to your overall success. I have seen many families who have strong cases and strong positions to achieve goals fall short of their objectives because they never had a plan. Going into a child custody case means understanding your position within the case, the arguments of your co-parent as well as what is in the best interest of your child.
In today’s blog post I am going to share with you some information on decisions and issues in a child custody case that can throw you off course and cause you to not be able to achieve your goals. While every child custody case is a little bit different I have been able to notice trends within the vast majority of child custody cases that allow for me to give some general advice to you as you are beginning or beginning to consider the filing of a child custody case in Texas. Some of your circumstances may not be included in today’s blog post. If so, I would recommend reaching out to an experienced family law attorney with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. Our free-of-charge consultations will offer you an opportunity to learn about Texas family law and also to receive answers to your questions.
issue #1: not developing your “why”
behind every decision that you make in your child custody case should be a strong motivation to do good for your child. Every position that you take within the case should be backed up by an element of concrete reasoning. By this I mean, you need to be able to articulate why it is you are taking a particular position regarding your case. Unless you can establish a concrete explanation as to why you want to do something then you may want to rethink why you hold that position in the 1st place. For instance, you may have a strong desire to become the primary conservator of your child after your divorce or child custody case. This is a perfectly normal position to hold it is one that you should be prepared to defend in court if necessary.
However, given the significance of this decision and your desire to become the primary Conservatory child you need to seriously give thought as to why you want to hold this designation. Many times you may want to do something just because you know it would ruffle the feathers of your Co-parent or annoy him or her to a certain extent. Do not allow the child custody case to become a shouting or arguing match between you and your Co-parent. Rather, you should examine closely what your motivations are for taking particular positions and then only defend those positions that you are strongly behind.
Issue #2: not thinking long term
when it comes to child custody cases I oftentimes see people experiencing problems from the beginning because they are unwilling to think long term. This is a big problem that I feel impacts many people in different sorts of child custody cases but there are two elements to this problem that I would like to mention today. The first problem that I see people suffering with when it comes to problems with their child custody case is not hiring an attorney believing that they can represent themselves or that an attorney is too expensive. I would certainly recommend that you interview multiple family law attorneys to gain a different perspective on your case and to determine what attorneys’ fees may look like across the broad spectrum of lawyers. Remember that hiring an attorney is a short-term investment into your long-term future.
Thank you for calling the other problem that I see with people making short-term, rather than long-term, decisions are that the problems in your life may not be able to be solved in one family law case. You may end up having to return to modify a court order in the future. With that said, you should not always bank on being able to come back and modify the order exactly how you want it in the future. I see people in your position all the time except settlement offers and fail to negotiate strongly to simply finish the case sooner rather than later period this is a short-sighted and oftentimes disastrous mistake. Do not put yourself in a position where you are agreeing to something without thinking of the long-term impacts.
Issue #3: not considering logistics
when it comes to child custody orders, determining Visitation and possession are among the most important subjects that you can encounter. As such, you and your Co-parent will need to determine a schedule for Visitation that suits you all well considering your children and your schedules. When you get into a mediation situation your mediator and attorney will work with you to play out all the different scenarios that could arise when it comes to dropping off and picking up children as well as figuring out how to arrange Visitation throughout the year. Some families create elaborate in finely tuned plans but failed to consider the logistical problems that you may encounter.
I don’t need to tell you that Houston is a big city. Coordinating drop-off and pick-up times on a Friday afternoon during the school year can be easier said than done. I would recommend making sure that bearing in mind your work schedule and the schedules of your children that you can fulfill your obligations in terms of dropping off and picking up the kids. In the alternative, if you are the primary conservator of your children you should make sure that you can have the kids available at the designated time and location for your Co-parent to pick them up. If you fail to do so, you put yourself in a position where you may be habitually in violation of your court orders and therefore risk ending up back in court for an enforcement case sooner rather than later.
Issue #4: fighting for issues you have no chance of winning
there is nothing wrong with having goals in a child custody case. We have already established that the failure to have goals is one of the biggest mistakes a person can have in a child custody case. However, you need to make sure that your goals are attainable. If you set forth goals regarding child custody, child support, or any subject in between and those goals are not attainable you will end up spending time and money in putting good money after bad.
The problem that people in your position have is that you likely do not know what a reasonable goal is for your child custody case. This is not to be unexpected: you are not an attorney, you have likely never been through a child custody case, and have no basis to make any comparisons to determine what is reasonable versus an unreasonable goal. This is one of the main benefits of having an experienced family law attorney to represent you in a child custody case. The attorney can help guide you to determine what is a reasonable goal and what is not a reasonable goal for your case.
We spoke earlier about wanting to become the primary conservator of your child. There is nothing wrong with having this goal but you should also be aware that much of the determination of judge will make regarding this subject will be based on your prior history’s apparent. If you have not been the primary caretaker for your children over the past few years before your child custody case it may be unlikely that a judge would name you as primary caretaker absent other circumstances. Speak with your attorney about your goals early in the case and he or she can help guide you to help you maximize your position within the case.
Issue #5: setting up unrealistic expectations for the length of the case
One thing that I have encountered with clients in your position, who are anticipating a child custody case, is that they have unrealistic expectations for how quickly the case should be over with. While Texas divorces have a 60 day waiting period to complete a case after filing occurs a Texas child custody case has no such requirement. As such, it may be that doing you believe your case could be wrapped up sooner than later. If your case ends up taking a little bit longer to complete this may cause frustration both with your Co-parent and with your attorney.
Since your family law case has components and issues in it that are unique to your family I would not recommend basing your experience on another person. With that said, you should talk with your attorney at the beginning of your case about the timeline so that you don’t get your hopes up about completing the case sooner than it is realistically possible to do. This does not mean your child custody case is going to take years to complete but it does mean that patients will be a virtue for you and your Co-parent. The better you can communicate in negotiate with one another the shorter your case may end up being.
Issue #6: making this case into a battle of the parents
It may be easy for me as an attorney to say, but I think when parents approach a child custody case as a battle or competition between them that the case suffers, the final orders suffer, and ultimately your children will suffer. I say this realizing full well that the child custody case is styled you versus your other parent. There are likely some contentious issues that need to be sorted out in this child custody case and you are following the case to have those issues sorted out. I’ve even heard family law attorneys referred to as gladiators who go to battle on behalf of their paying clients.
While this is certainly an interesting way to look at child custody cases the reality is that once you and your Co-parent begin to look at your circumstances as being more about yourselves and less about the well-being of your children, your case will begin to suffer. Rather than make this case about you and your other parent you should keep a focus on your children and do your best, to be honest about what is actually in their best interest. This may mean taking a backseat to your Co-parent in certain areas and they are allowing you the same courtesy and others. However, if you can put aside your ego and emotions then your child will likely benefit a great deal.
Issue #7: forcing the issue and turning your child custody case into a courtroom battle
There is nothing wrong, in and of itself, with needing to go to court to deal with the many issues you may encounter in your case. This is especially true if you’re Co-parent he’s in violation of court orders or is otherwise doing things that may harm your child. With that said, there is also ample opportunity to drag yourself and your parent into court at every opportunity to answer therefore delay and prolong your case.
For example, you may not like every action of your Co-parent during the case. He or she may take liberties when it comes to picking up or dropping off her child on time or thank you for a response to your discovery requests may not be exactly what you can find out based on The Texas Rules of Civil Procedure. However, you and your attorney need to determine how frequently you need to seek judicial intervention when it comes to issues in your case. Make no mistake there will be ample opportunity for you to do so. It is up to you all to determine whether or not you and your Co-parent can solve your issues together in negotiation or whether you need to resort to a judge to play a tiebreaker.
Issue #8: not preparing for mediation sufficiently
Whether we’re talking about final orders or temporary orders mediation, you and your attorney need to be on the same page when it comes to this date. For instance, you all should have spoken through what your goals are in which of those goals are the most important to you. Mediation offers the parties and their attorneys an opportunity to have discussion and negotiation filtered through an experienced mediator. The time spent in mediation can be invaluable as far as helping you all to arrive at an amicable conclusion to your case. However, if you come into mediation without having prepared sufficiently you are not going to be able to take full advantage of the opportunity.
Therefore, I would request your attorney to have even a 30 minute or hour-long meeting with him or her before mediation. The day before mediation you all can work on shaping your goals and determining how you want to proceed and respond to counter offers and offers made to you by your opposing party. Trust me when I say that you will feel much more at ease when you are thrown curveballs in negotiation.
Issue #9: not reading through the final orders of your case before signing
After all the hard work and time spent in your child custody case you are very likely going to be eager to complete the case and put it behind you. However, that does not mean that you can not go over the final orders in your case with a fine-tooth comb before signing. This is especially true if your Co parent’s attorney was the one to draft the orders. You and your attorney should review those orders closely and determine if something is not clear or if something does not reflect the nature of your agreement. Do not assume that you will be able to come back and correct any errors in the future because it is likely that you will not be able to.
issue #10: not asking questions
This one is pretty simple: if you have a question about something ask your attorney before making decisions. If your attorney does not explain something well enough to you ask him or her to explain it again and again, if necessary. There is no shame in asking questions.
Questions about the material contained in today’s blog post? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan
If you have any questions about the material contained in today’s blog post please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. Our licensed family law attorneys offer free of charge consultation six days a week in person, over the phone, and via video. These consultations are a great opportunity for you to learn more about the world of Texas family law and to discover how your circumstances may be impacted by the filing of a child custody or divorce case.