Child custody is one of the many important aspects of a divorce involving young children. If the parents cannot agree on important custody issues, they can end up in lengthy and contentious courtroom disputes.

If you are a parent and going through a divorce, you should create a custody plan with a skilled family attorney. Our experienced West Lake Hills child custody lawyers will fight to protect your parental rights and your child’s best interests.

Factors that Determine Custody

Courts do not favor one parent over the other because of their sex or gender. Instead, they look at factors that influence the child’s needs and best interests to determine important custody matters. There are two forms of custody that a court must decide on. These include physical custody, which determines where a child will live, and legal custody—in Texas the term is conservatorship– which identifies who may make important decisions on the child’s behalf. Typically, courts allow parents to share both forms of custody, barring any factors that may put the child at risk.

In some situations, a Guardian ad Litem (GAL) may be appointed to the case and advocate for what they believe is in the children’s best interests. The factors the GAL or court considers when deciding on custody include who the primary caregiver is, the ability of each parent to offer a stable environment for the child, the capability of each party to meet the child’s emotional and physical needs, and any evidence of domestic violence. If a parent attempts to alienate their children from the other party, courts view this as a negative mark against this parent. A West Lake Hills attorney will evaluate what factors may come into play in a specific child custody determination.

What Parents Should Consider in their Parenting Plan

Parents should include detailed descriptions of their future routines and responsibilities in their parenting plan. One of the most important parts of the parenting plan is creating a regular schedule that determines when each parent will spend time with their children. These schedules can look very different depending on the situation. For example, one parent may have more time with the children because it is easier for them to transport them to and from school or because the other parent works unpredictable or long hours.

These schedules should work to provide the best situation for the children. It is also important to include terms for special events, holidays, and birthdays. Parents may wish to alternate certain holidays or have extra vacation time a certain points in the year. A parent should have their attorney include any variances to the schedule to avoid later confusion or conflict.

While parents may share decision-making, they may also need to include terms related to childcare costs, extracurricular activities, and other matters that may impact their lives and the lives of their children. A West Lake Hills attorney could help someone draft their ideal child custody agreement that includes all essential matters.

Modifying Custody

It is crucial to detail important information into a parenting plan because while individuals can change the terms, doing so can be challenging. Changing a parenting plan may be relatively simple if the parties agree, but if they do not, it can lead to additional litigation.

If a parent wishes to alter a parenting schedule or other terms in the custody agreement, they must show that there has been a substantial change in circumstances since the previous order was entered. Courts do not want parents to keep returning to court to have the same arguments, so they require that the parent wishing to modify the terms prove there is a compelling reason to take such action.

For example, if a parent wants to move or took a new job involving a great deal of travel, or if a child is older and wants to live primarily with the noncustodial parent,  the court may agree to modify the terms. A West Lake Hills lawyer could help parents with modifications of their child custody agreements.

Hire a West Lake Hills Child Custody Attorney

Custody decisions are emotional and complex. If the parents do not cooperate well and struggle to agree on any terms, these proceedings can become extremely difficult.

Even in less contentious scenarios, it can still become difficult to prepare a custody agreement that covers all of the necessary terms. Fortunately, a West Lake Hills child custody lawyer could help with all of these challenges and provide advocacy for you and your kids. Call today to get help with your case.