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CHILD CUSTODY

Houston Texas Family Lawyer Julie Ketterman, has represented thousands of divorcing couples with child custody issues in Harris, Galveston, Brazoria, Ft. Bend, Matagorda and Waller counties.

Child custody may involve any or all of these issues:  custody rights, visitation rights, the child primary residence, who is the custodial parent and who is the non-custodial parent, custody proceedings, a possible custody lawsuit, Divorce Petition, Parent-Child Relationship suit, working with child custody experts and enforcement of court orders.

Julie understands that under Texas law the Courts' guiding legal principle applies in deciding who should be the custodial parent is the child's "best interests." What exactly is in the child's best interest is not particularly well defined, but Texas Courts have provided guidance. Julie's vast experience will be of great assistance.

Houston Family Lawyer Julie Ketterman's, goal is to resolve matters quickly and to save you the trauma of litigation. When necessary, she will vigorously defend your rights in court. A divorce child custody case does not always have to be a traumatic, combative experience.

What is "custody" under the law?

The legal term "custody" refers to the parent (or person) who will have the exclusive right to determine the primary residence of the child(ren) or with whom the children will live. The other parent will have visitation rights. The person with the custody right is called the "custodial parent" and the parent who has visitation is called the "non-custodial parent."

Under Texas law there is no presumption that a woman or a man, based on gender alone, is either more or less fit to be a custodial parent. By law, gender can not be used when making a custody determination.

Determining Who Gets Custody of the Child/Children under Texas Law

A custody proceeding is a lawsuit. It is started by the filing of either a Divorce Petition (if the parties are married) or a Suit Affecting Parent-Child Relationship, also known as a "SAPCR."

The filing of either of these lawsuits is very similar to filing a lawsuit in civil court, with the exception you are suing to be designated the custodial parent of a child. It's very important to consult with a lawyer if you are faced or will face a child custody proceeding before taking any action.

Child Custody and the Marital Residence – the Kids and the Family Home

If you are married and still living with your spouse (even if you are sleeping in separate bedrooms) it's very important to not leave the marital residence without your child/children. (If you are in a physically abusive relationship then different rules apply and you should call the police and let them help you remove your spouse from the residence.)

Domestic violence aside, if you voluntarily leave the residence and your spouse files for divorce it is very difficult, if not impossible to get back into the house while the divorce is pending. This puts you at a disadvantage. The best course of action is to let a Court decide who should be the custodial parent while you wait for your divorce.

The Best Interests of the Child

The Courts' guiding legal principle in deciding who should be the custodial parent is the child's "best interests." What exactly is in the child's best interest is not particularly well defined, but Texas Courts have provided guidance.

What the Court Considers in Deciding Child Custody: The "Holley Factors"

In one Texas divorce case, Nanci Holley v. David Adams, the court came up with a non-exclusive list of factors to look at in determining the best interests of the child. The Court found some pertinent factors in deciding what is in the best interests of children when parents are divorcing include:

  • the desires of the child;
  • the emotional and physical needs of the child now and in the future;
  • the emotional and physical danger (of one parent) to the child now and in the future;
  • the parental abilities of the individuals seeking custody;
  • the programs available to assist these individuals to promote the best interest of the child;
  • the plans for the child by these individuals;
  • the stability of both parties homes;
  • the acts or omissions of the parent which may indicate that the existing parent-child relationship is not a proper one; and
  • any excuse for the acts or omissions of the parent.

What the Court Considers in Deciding Child Custody: Additional Factors

Sometimes these factors are referred to "Holley" factors. Other factors which a Court will consider include:

  • which parent enables and promotes a friendly parenting environment for the other parent,
  • who has been making the educational decisions of the children,
  • who has been making any medical related decisions,
  • who generally prepares for and feeds the children,
  • which parent regularly meets with the teachers if the child is school age,
  • has one parent been alienating the child from the other parent,
  • who gets the child up in the morning and puts him/her to bed at night, and
  • who participated in extracurricular activities,
  • court appointed (or retained) child custody experts recommendations.

Again this list is not exhaustive, but it does provide guidance. Also, the judge will always consider if either parent has or is using drugs or has either parent been involved in any criminal activity. Either of these will almost always result in an adverse ruling and sometimes a restriction in the amount of visitation the non-custodial parent has.

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