Most parents naturally want to spend as much time with their children as possible. They want to be involved in their children’s daily lives, they want input on important decisions about their child’s health, education, and lifestyle, and they want to know that their children are healthy, safe, and sure of their parents’ love and affections. The reason custody cases are so difficult and frequently adversarial is that both parents want the same thing – more time with their children and upbringing input.
In most cases, one parent is going to get less than they want. In reality, often both parents get less than they want – it’s difficult for any divorced parent to also be a full-time parent. Fathers, in particular, sometimes have misconceptions about their rights under their state’s custody laws or make inaccurate assumptions about their chances of success in a custody case. Take a look at some of the most important things that fathers may not know about Texas child custody laws.
Fathers Have a Good Fighting Chance of Getting 50-50 Child Custody
It’s always a mistake to give up before you even get started. Sometimes, fathers settle for less than what they deserve. Mainly because fathers don’t believe they’re entitled to more rights or that they’ll have a successful outcome. There are a few reasons for this. Some fathers may remember – a time when custody was usually automatically given to the mother. This type of thinking was that: mothers were inherently better at nurturing children, while fathers were inherently better at providing for them.
Today, child development experts know that this is not true – that children have better outcomes when both parents are actively involved in their lives. Better yet, Texas courts know that too! Texas child custody laws are gender-neutral, and have been for decades. Their job is to decide child custody based on what’s in the child’s best interests. Thus, your involvement as a father is definitely in your child’s best interests.
Fathers Should Never Settle for Less
Even knowing that Texas courts are supposed to be gender-neutral, fathers may be skeptical of your chances in a custody hearing. Often, this skepticism arises when a father looks around at the divorced couples he knows and notices that the women have the lion’s share of the time with their children. What fathers probably don’t know, though, is that most custody cases settle outside of court, rather than being decided by a family court judge.
This means that in the majority of cases, the final custody arrangement is one that both parents agreed to on their own. Hence, mothers don’t get a greater share of custody simply because that’s what the judge orders. This happens because that’s what both parents agree to. Why would so many father are willing to settle for visitation instead of custody, or for substantially less time with their children? There are many possible reasons, including (but not limited to):
- Living too far away or working too many hours to make an even 50/50 split work.
- Fathers may believe – in spite of the research – that children need their mothers more.
- Perhaps there’s an arrangement that is convenient and mutually agreeable, even if it isn’t an even split.
- And undoubtedly, many fathers have settled for less simply because they don’t have a fighting chance at gaining an equal custody arrangement.
While misguided, this belief is sadly too common. If you’re a father heading into a custody case, it’s best to talk things out with your ex about a custody agreement that you’re both satisfied with. However, if you can’t reach an agreement that you’re happy with and, more importantly, one that will benefit your children, don’t settle! If you and your ex are at a stalemate, you might be better off letting the judge decide.
Child Custody Proceedings Don’t Have to Cost a Fortune
You may be thinking, “What about the money? Texas child custody lawyers are expensive – maybe dads just can’t afford to pursue fair custody arrangements!” It’s true – hiring an attorney to represent you in family court can be very pricey. And it’s likely also true that some fathers have backed down from their custody claims because of this misconception. But what may surprise you is that in many custody cases, you don’t actually need to hire an attorney at all.
Your instinct may be to dismiss that statement as untrue. You’ve probably been told over and over that if you ever have to go to court, you must be represented by a lawyer. And that’s certainly true in criminal court or when you’re involved in a complex personal injury lawsuit. But family court is different. While some custody cases are legally complex enough to make an attorney a necessity, many are not.
As a parent, you know and understand your child’s needs, and you can learn how to prepare documents or present testimony in court. Bypassing the child custody lawyer allows you to save money that might be better spent on your child. Of course, that doesn’t mean that you should try to handle it all on your own. A legal resource group like National Family Solutions can be an affordable answer to this problem, and can help:
- Prepare legal documents.
- Prepare for court testimony.
- Point you in the direction of credible expert witnesses or valuable resources.
- Succeed in your child custody case.
All this and so much more can be done at an affordable rate – more so than what it would cost to hire an attorney. It’s certainly worth looking into!