Legal Representation for Fathers Concerned About Child Custody in Houston, TX
If you’re a father who is concerned about his children during a divorce from your child’s mother, or you want to participate in your child’s life and were never married to your child’s mother, you might be worried that Texas family courts make decisions that are more favorable to mothers than to fathers.
This is a common misconception. The reality is that, in Texas -- and throughout the country -- family courts make decisions based on what is in the best interests of the child. Legislation exists to protect the relationship children enjoy with their fathers, and fathers should not fear that the court will treat them harshly when it comes to deciding child custody and other issues. Still, it’s vital to work with a Houston fathers’ rights attorney who understands fathers’ concerns when seeking custody in court.
What is in the Child’s Best Interest?
The judge in a family law case may decide what’s in a child’s best interest. The Texas Family Code states:
“The best interest of the child shall always be the primary consideration of the court in determining the issues of conservatorship and possession of and access to the child. (Tex. Fam. Code 153.002).”
Judges must rule in the best interest of children, and lawyers representing the child’s father and mother must act in the best legal interest of the child. Sometimes, the resolution a parent seeks is not in line with what is best for the child.
Some of the factors the court considers when determining a child’s best interest may include:
- The child’s emotional and physical needs. The court considers the child’s needs based on their age and development. The court considers each parent’s role in addressing their needs, like being taken to doctors, receiving tutoring, and more. The court will also consider whether each parent has demonstrated that they can put the needs of their child before their own, as well as each parent’s ability to recognize and address the child’s changing needs.
- Each parent’s stability. Stability is vital for a child’s development and well-being, so the judge will consider each parent’s:
- Ability to earn an income
- Ability to maintain a stable home
- Ability to provide child care
- Move history
- Employment history
- Each parent’s ability to maintain a relationship with their child. Studies show that children thrive when both parents engage with them and cooperate on their upbringing. In most custody cases, the court will make an effort to keep each parent in the child’s life. Any behavior that indicates that a parent is discouraging the child from spending time with the other parent, sometimes referred to as “alienation,” will draw concern. Signs of alienation may include:
- Interfering with the other parent’s time with the child
- Speaking negatively about the other parent in front of the child
- Rewarding the child for rejecting the other parent
- Whether it’s dangerous for the child to be around either parent. If a child’s relationship with a parent is restricted because that parent has a history of drug abuse or is abusive toward the child and/or the child’s other parent, the parent will need to work closely with their lawyer to ensure that the court discovers these facts so that they can address the child’s safety when the child spends time with the troubled parent. It may be a good choice to provide documentation to the court, such as emails, text messages, journal entries, and police reports.
- Each parent’s involvement with their child. Texas family court may not consider the gender of either parent when granting custody; however, they will consider how involved each parent has been in the child’s life. In families where there has been a primary care parent who stayed home to raise the child, took the child to medical appointments, attended parent-teacher meetings, and more, that parent may have an advantage when it comes to being awarded certain rights and responsibilities. Parents who equally shared those responsibilities may be encouraged to continue doing so with joint decision making responsibilities.
- The child’s proximity to extended family members. The court generally prefers to keep children physically close to their extended families as they provide additional support. Some of the most challenging issues for the court to decide appear when one parent must move away from the child’s primary residence. The court must weigh the pros and cons of the child staying in the same community versus resettling into a new town.
- The child’s preference for either parent. Children’s preferences for a particular parent is only considered in some cases. At age 12, the court may consider the child’s preferences when determining where they live or how much time they spend with each parent. The court is not bound by the child’s preferences. This is just one out of many factors the court may consider when making child custody decisions.
A Father’s Role in a Child’s Life
Children whose fathers are involved in their lives have a better chance of excelling in life. Fathers play a crucial role in a child’s development. Studies have shown that children with active fathers are:
- More likely to succeed in pursuing education
- Less likely to suffer from depression
- Less likely to exhibit disruptive behavior
- Less likely to lie
- More likely to have better self-esteem
- Less likely to abuse drugs and alcohol
Fathers may sometimes be overlooked in custody situations if their presence in their children’s lives is presented unfavorably by the other parent. With quality representation, you can stand up for your parental rights so you can be a father to them rather than a visitor.
Houston Fathers’ Rights Lawyers With More than 70 Years of Experience
At Stepp & Sullivan, PC, our lawyers have more than 70 years of combined legal experience helping clients navigate family law matters like child custody. We offer compassionate and client-focused representation. Call (713) 804-4784 or complete our contact form for a consultation.