Child Custody Questions and Answers that will impact your case in Texas

Thanks to our friends and contributors at the Law Office of Bryan Fagan for the following new blog:

Instead of having to resort to asking your friends and neighbors questions about child custody and divorces in Texas, we wanted to provide you with a list of commonly asked questions and some (hopefully) thought provoking/entertaining answers. While your specific question may not be included in our list we hope that many of these questions and answers are relevant to your situation and can help you gain some knowledge.

For those questions that you have that are not covered in today’s blog, please contact us today for a free of charge consultation. We offer these consultations six days a week with one of our licensed family law attorneys. These are a great opportunity to sit down with an attorney who practices family law every day in order to ask questions, receive honest answers and learn more about our office and how we work on behalf of our clients.

What effect will an extra-marital affair have on your child custody or divorce case?

If you or your spouse have had an extramarital affair then that will certainly be an important factor in your divorce or child custody case. However, the extent to which that affair impacts any child custody determinations made by the judge is left up to the particular circumstances of your case. Specifically, a judge will be looking at whether or not the relationship has harmed your child in a particular way.

Let’s consider an example for you to think more about this subject. Suppose that your spouse has had an affair during your marriage but that you nor your child knew about it. In this situation it is unlikely that the judge in your divorce would put this is a deciding factor when determining which parent (you or your spouse) will be given primary custody rights over your child.

The same sort of relationship in the post-divorce phase of your life will have little impact on any subsequent modification cases. If you were engaged in a relationship after your divorce with another person and your ex-spouse is now asking for some aspect of your divorce decree to be modified, your relationships will likely not factor into the decision making unless there has been a negative impact on you or your child. If you have a “live in” girlfriend or boyfriend then the nature of that relationship will be looked at from the vantage point of what impact it has had (if any) on your child.

On the other hand, many extra marital affairs have a much different impact on children than the one that way laid out in the prior paragraph. Suppose that your wife not only had an affair with another man during your marriage, but would bring that man to the social functions, sporting events and school functions of your child. That is not only embarrassing to you, but it is also embarrassing to your child. Since this relationship would have had a negative impact on your child then it would become more of a factor in your divorce proceedings when determining child custody.

This is again a circumstance where, as we discussed yesterday, the personal biases and opinions of the judge will come into play. If your judge views extramarital affairs of any sort with a stern view then even those that have had no impact on your child may be viewed harshly. On the other hand, there are those judges who, while not approving of the relationship, will not impute much weight to the affair as far as your divorce proceedings.

Parental alienation and its effect on your divorce proceedings

The basic premise behind child custody laws in Texas are that the state encourages both parents to have relationships with their child. For instance, the default setting in a divorce or child custody case is for parents to be named as joint managing conservators. This means each parent will share in the rights and duties of raising their child and will each have significant time allotted to them in order to spend as they see fit with their son or daughter.

With that said, it sometimes happens that one parent or the other will try to undermine the relationship between their child and their ex-spouse. This is referred to as “alienation” in the world of family law. If it is proved in court that you have engaged in this sort of behavior it is likely that your judge would view this as extremely poor behavior and contrary to the goals of their court. As such, it may become a determining factor when deciding important custody issues such as with one of you will be the primary conservators of your child after a divorce.

How will religious preferences impact your divorce/child custody case (if at all)

Our federal constitution allows you and your spouse to freely practice your religious beliefs and allows for you to direct the religious training of your child as well. In conjunction with your divorce case a judge should not and likely would never make a determination that your religious practices are something that needs to be discussed or debated. Your decision whether or not to engage in religious practices with your child should not be an issue, in other words.

In the event that you and your spouse practice different religious beliefs or come from different religious backgrounds it is typical that your divorce decree would hold that you and your spouse are able to each direct the religious practices of your child when you are in possession of him or her. There is not supposed to be any preference given to your faith or that of your spouse.

On the other hand, if your spouse or you engage in religious practices that are harmful to your child in some way (harmful as determined by the judge) then that changes the equation somewhat. However, the likelihood of a judge determining that your child is in harm’s way because of either of your religious practices is extremely low.

How can a child custody determination made in your divorce be changed down the road?

As time moves on, circumstances change and what was agreed upon or decided by a judge may not work well for you and your family. This is to be expected- after all, your children will age and their needs will change as well. You will change jobs, your ex-spouse will change jobs or one of you will move residences for any given reason. My point is that you cannot expect that your divorce will be your last interaction with a family court.

In some instances you and your ex-spouse are able to work together to come up with informal agreements that will hold together well enough for you all to not need to head to court to have a judge hear your reasons why your divorce decree should be modified in some way. These are usually situations where you and your ex-spouse are on good speaking terms and are able to come up with and stick to new agreements without a problem.

However, if you and your ex-spouse do not function at this level and cannot see eye to eye on many issues you may need to file a lawsuit in order to have any changes occur to your divorce decree. These are called modification cases and they will be the subject we first discuss in tomorrow’s blog post.

Thanks to our friends and contributors at The Law Office of Bryan Fagan for their insight into dividing a 401(k) retirement plan in a Texas divorce.