Family Law

Child Custody Cases

Making conservatorship decisions is always the most painful part of divorcing. Being clear about your options from the start may make tough decisions easier.

Types of Conservatorship

  • LegalVersus Physical Conservatorship:
Legal Physical
Legal conservatorship is the right to make decisions about your child, including:

  • Education
  • Religion
  • Medical issues
  • Discipline
Physical conservatorship is having the child physically present with you.
  • Sole Versus Joint Conservatorship:
Sole Joint
With sole conservatorship, you alone have legal and physical conservatorship of your child. In a joint conservatorship arrangement, you and your ex-spouse share legal and/or physical conservatorship of the child. This might mean:

  • Having the child spend a significant amount of time with each parent
  • Spending weekdays with one parent and weekends with the other parent
  • The child spending most of his or her time with one parent and visiting with the other parent on a regular schedule
  • The parents moving in and out of a home where the children live (called “nesting“)

Parenting Agreements

Most states including Texas, require the divorcing parents to have a written parenting plan outlining:

  • Where the child will live
  • Details of when the child will be with the noncustodial parent
  • Who will make parenting decisions and how
  • Where the child will be during holidays and school vacations
  • How vacation time with each parent will be determined
  • How the child will be insured medically

Factors In Determining Conservatorship

If you and your spouse cannot agree on a conservatorship arrangement, the court will likely make a decision based on the “best interests” of your child.

Factors the court will consider in deciding what’s in your child best interest include:

  • Who is currently and has been the primary care provider for the child
  • The mental and physical health of both parents
  • Special needs such as medical care and psychological counseling your child may have
  • The work schedules and availability of each parent
  • Where any siblings will live
  • The support systems (family and friends) of each parent
  • The preference of an older child, such as a teenager
  • The cooperation level between parents
  • Any history of domestic violence between the parents

What To Expect In Conservatorship Litigation

Laws and procedures vary by state, but you should expect the following in a conservatorship lawsuit:

  • One of the parents files for a divorce and asks the court to decide conservatorship
  • Both parents file paperwork detailing each parent’s plan for where the child would live, visitation schedules, and how decisions concerning the child would be made
  • The court will likely appoint an investigator, sometimes called a “conservatorship evaluator” or “guardian ad litem,” to interview the child, parents and potential witnesses such as family, friends and teachers, and make recommendations to the court regarding conservatorship
  • The parents may be required to go to mediation, where a neutral third party will help the parents work out an agreement without going to court
  • The parents may be required to complete a short parenting course regarding parenting after a divorce
  • Attorneys for both parents may take “depositions” – formal questioning of witnesses under oath- to prepare for trial
  • Both parents will likely have to answer formal written questions under oath, called “interrogatories
  • There will be a series of motions and hearings before the actual trial, to determine temporary conservatorship and child support
  • At trial, the judge will hear from both parents and witnesses
  • The judge may make his or her decision at the conclusion of the trial, or may wait and send a written decision days or weeks after the trial has ended

Fighting over your child is expensive, time-consuming and emotionally damaging to everyone involved, especially your child. But knowing your rights as you begin the process make help you make better decisions.

It is essential to hire a competent local lawyer who specializes in conservatorship litigation to help you in this process.

  Gill, Revack, Samaan &  Muller, LLP

6575 West Loop South, Suite 600,
Bellaire (Houston), Texas 77401

office@grslegal.com

(713) 271-8282 or (800) 952-5559

(713) 271-2112