Many parents are able to work together to set reasonable custody guidelines, but in contentious divorce cases or situations where one parent may not be a suitable caregiver, custody battles may be unavoidable. If that’s what you’re currently going through, you’ll want the skill and compassion of an attorney like Frank J. Vendt, Jr., who has been through a tough divorce himself and has fought for shared custody.
Children’s issues can be some of the most emotionally difficult court cases that families have to deal with. When divorce ends a marriage and parents split into two separate households, they may have different ideas about child care and custody. It can be extremely challenging to sort out custody issues without the help of a qualified child custody attorney. Especially if your former spouse is employing counsel, you’ll need to have the most knowledgeable and experienced family law legal professional you can find.
You’re not alone if you need assistance with child custody. More than one-quarter of U.S. children under age 21— 26.6 percent, according to U.S. Census records—live with only one parent while the other parent lives somewhere else. That means that many split families are dealing with the same kinds of issues that you are and may need legal help to set fair and reasonable custody. In Texas, the courts have a great deal of leeway in how custody cases are managed, so having a lawyer skilled in presenting your case is vital.
As you can imagine, cases related to divorce and child custody tend to be kept private by those involved. Unlike, for example, a personal injury case where law firms may boast about the damages they are able to recover for their clients, child custody cases are silently fought and outcomes quietly negotiated based on the best interests of the kids involved.
Texas family courts tend to prefer a joint custody agreement, known as joint conservatorship. Joint conservatorship or joint custody means custody is equally shared. Unless there is a reason why the other parent is unfit to have custody, this shared conservatorship is usually considered an ideal outcome. We can help ensure this 50-50 custody split is achieved, especially for fathers who may be concerned about their ability to get equal time with their children.
Of course, as children get older and circumstances change, you may need to modify your custody agreement. We can also help you achieve a favorable modification outcome based on your circumstances while saving time and extensive legal costs. While no one can confidently predict how long custody cases can take in Texas, we do our best to get them resolved as quickly and efficiently as possible.
While every child custody case is unique, they do share some similarities. In Texas, legal terms for custody cases may be different from what you’re familiar with: child custody is called conservatorship. Joint custody is known as joint-managing conservatorship (JMC), and sole custody is called sole-managing conservatorship (SMC). In JMC, both parents share custody and decision making; in SMC, only one parent makes legal decisions for the child, like healthcare, schooling, and activities.
If you can work out custody details, including how decisions regarding important issues like religion and health care are made, that is formalized in a parenting plan. The plan goes to the court to be formalized, and once it is approved by a family law judge, it is legally binding. The parenting plan will guide your custody until you return to court to have it changed.
Child custody hearings take place in a Texas court when the child has lived for at least the past 6 months in the state. Exceptions may be if both parents have moved out of Texas, or there is substantial evidence in another state regarding one parent’s fitness to have custody.
In most child custody cases, two biological parents, a mother and a father, are working to establish fair and reasonable conservatorship.
Parents who agree on most aspects of conservatorship will often not need to go to trial. They can work with a mediator to work out the details and file a “parenting plan” that will be formally approved by the court. If there are conflicts, however, the custody case may need to go to trial, and that involves more people, more time, and more expense.
In Texas, either a judge can hear a custody case in what’s known as a bench trial, or a jury can hear the case and make a decision. Texas is the only state in the U.S. that holds jury trials for child custody disputes, and going before a jury requires an experienced attorney with a background in arguing cases before a jury. Jury trials can be much more difficult and time-consuming than bench trials, but there are some instances where it may be an advantage to your case.
Sometimes, other relatives like grandparents may sue for visitation rights. In other cases, a stepparent who has been part of a child’s life for many years may also sue for part custody. These cases can be very difficult to win, as Texas law doesn’t legally allow grandparents the right to see grandchildren unless the parents permit it. Stepparents have equally tenuous footing when it comes to custody rights.
If the child has lived solely with the grandparent or stepparent for more than 6 months, that can factor into the case. However, in most legal proceedings, the court will place the child with parents and will not award visitation if that goes against the parent’s wishes.
As long as it is in the child’s best interests, Texas courts prefer to award joint-managing conservatorship to parents who are going through a divorce. Studies show that, barring evidence that one parent is unfit, young children do best when they split time between parents.
If you believe that one or more of these factors makes the child’s other parent a poor choice for joint-managing conservatorship, you will need to have proof to show in court. However, even with proof, the path to establishing sole-managing conservatorship can be a long and difficult one. An experienced child custody attorney can help you establish and document what you need to have convincing proof for the family law judge.
Divorce proceedings can cloud people’s minds, and in some cases, a party may be willing to resort to less-than-honest tactics to gain an advantage or hurt the opposing party—even when it involves the children and makes their lives more difficult.
Hire a qualified lawyer who can battle back against tactics like this if you suspect the other parent may try to get an unfair advantage. In the hands of an experienced attorney, these untrue allegations are unlikely to go anywhere or have a negative impact on your case.
There are a couple of ways that custody violations play out. When violations are small, such as the father keeping a child a few hours longer than the legal agreement, the other parent may choose to go back to court. In many cases, the courts will send both parties to mediation or try to get a compromise, but you may end up revisiting the legal conservatorship. Sometimes, the parent who is guilty of violations will have visitation time reduced. The courts will always try to look at what is in the best interests of the child.
You may need your child custody attorney’s advice and legal assistance even after your initial conservatorship hearing is completed, as custody battles can be ongoing if one parent doesn’t follow the rules of the custody agreement.
Texas law allows courts to consider any factor the court deems appropriate in making child custody decisions, giving judges significant discretion, which impacts how a parent can gain child custody. Some of the factors a court may consider when deciding whether or not to order a joint conservatorship include the following:
Because courts have such wide latitude in making custody decisions. is critical for anyone who is involved in a child custody dispute to retain an attorney familiar with representing people in similar situations. In some cases, it may be necessary to gather and present evidence either establishing your fitness as a parent or disputing the fitness of your child’s other parent. An attorney will thoroughly evaluate your case and determine how best to go about maximizing your chances of getting the child custody arrangement you want.
A simple child custody case, where both parents are in general agreement, can cost between $2,500 and $5,000 in attorney fees, paperwork, and court costs. The exact amount depends on the specific factors in your case. If your case goes to trial and is stretched out, the cost can rise to more than $10,000.
In custody cases, you pay your divorce attorney up front in what is called a retainer. At The Vendt Law Firm, P.L.L.C., we understand the pressures on parents who are pursuing fair conservatorship arrangements. Schedule a consultation, and we can talk about payment options and what the cost of your case is likely to be: we know navigating a custody case is not easy, and are always willing to work with clients to provide a fee structure that is reasonable.
Having a good Richmond child custody lawyer on your side is important if the other parent is challenging your right to joint-managing conservatorship or if the other parent is unsuitable for providing care. Your child’s wellbeing is too important to leave to chance; talk to us today to find out what your next steps should be.
Frank has done an amazing job with my divorce case, I would definitely recommend him to anyone!
“Frank has done an amazing job with my divorce case, I would definitely recommend him to anyone! He has always been available at all times of day, he is very sharp and knows exactly what he’s talking about and can explain things very well. I have relied on Frank to take care of this case and he has come through on top at every turn. Excellent lawyer.”
Frank guided me through a very challenging divorce and I couldn’t be more pleased.
“I cannot recommend Mr. Vendt and his associates more! Frank guided me through a very challenging divorce and I couldn’t be more pleased. Response times on phone and email were exceptional. On the rare occasion my questions were not answered immediately, I would wait only hours at the most, thankfully, I never waited into the next day. Frank also made a surprising effort to fully understand my situation, and negotiate a fair deal. Although it meant less money in his pocket, he managed to avoid a second trial, and negotiated a fair deal I was very pleased with. I always assumed lawyers were in it for all they could get, but Frank truly had my best interest at the forefront of his efforts. The best quality I can mention is that Frank is very honest and strait forward. He reads the situation, and advises in a very clear and accurate manor. I never felt like I was in limbo, and with Frank on my side, I knew what to do and what to expect to reach a satisfying conclusion to a difficult time in my life. I hope and pray I never need his service again, but if I do require a family attorney in the future, The Vendt Law firm will receive my first and only call.”
Frank really took care of me with a complex divorce. It was nice to know I had him in my corner with his experience and understanding during a difficult time.
“Frank really took care of me with a complex divorce. It was nice to know I had him in my corner with his experience and understanding during a difficult time. I highly recommend. ”
I simply want to Thank Frank for his upfront honesty and advise on my case! He saved me from spending my money and gave me the knowledge I needed to go about my situation.
“I simply want to Thank Frank for his upfront honesty and advise on my case! He saved me from spending my money and gave me the knowledge I needed to go about my situation.Thank you You Frank i really appreciate you taking your time to help me out and providing me with options..I hope to never have to go through going to court but if it was the case i would defiantly hire Mr Frank!”
He represented me in a manner that was professional and very efficient. Frank does what he does because he has a passion for justice.
“Frank was great to work with. He represented me in a manner that was professional and very efficient. Frank does what he does because he has a passion for justice. I am very appreciative of all that Frank has done for me and I will recommend him to anyone that needs legal representation conducted the ‘right’ way.”