When a father gets divorced, the end of the marriage isn’t the only thing on his mind. He also is thinking about his kids. As Fort Worth attorneys who specialize in father’s rights, we know judges try to be fair. But they are human and can make mistakes. So here are some things to know about child custody lawyers for fathers—how the law works, what your rights are, and how to make sure you’ve found the right attorney for you.
What is the Difference Between Physical and Legal Custody?
Before we can talk about child custody and attorneys, we need to explain some legal terms. The State of Texas has two types of custody:
Physical custody defines who the children will live with, and for how much time. In some instances, the court will divide physical custody equally between the two parents. But other times, the judge will give one parent primary physical custody.
Legal custody defines which parent has the right to make important life decisions regarding the upbringing of the children. For example, parents typically decide where the kids will go to school, if they need medical care, and guide their religious education.
What is Conservatorship in Texas?
Here is where a conversation about a father’s rights can get a little confusing. Texas courts don’t use the word custody. Instead, they use the term conservatorship. So in addition to the two forms of custody, the State has three forms of conservatorship.
Sole Managing Conservatorship (SMC): In an SMC, the judge grants only one parent the right to make the major decisions regarding the child’s well-being. In addition, the judge usually gives this parent sole physical custody as well.
Joint Managing Conservatorship (JMC): In a JMC, the court gives each parent equal authority to make life decisions for the children. In other words, they have equal legal custody. However, the parents may not have equal physical custody. The court calls the parent with whom the children primarily live the primary conservator.
Possessory Conservator: If the judge has decreed that one parent will serve as sole managing conservator, he or she may name the other parent a possessory conservator.
A possessory conservator does not have the right to be involved in making critical decisions on the child’s behalf. However, the parent does have visitation rights. The possessory conservator often will be required to make child support payments.
How Does the Court Decide Who Gets Child Custody?
These terms can be confusing, but it is important to have some understanding of them. For example, you’ve started considering child custody lawyers for fathers. And you tell one of the attorneys that you want custody of the kids. Your attorney may respond, “Okay. What type of custody do you want?”
The Texas Family Code Section 153.002 states that the court shall make decisions about child custody and visitation based upon the best interests of the child. Whenever possible, the judge will declare that the parents will have a Joint Managing Conservatorship. This is because, in an ideal scenario, the children will enjoy frequent and ongoing contact with each parent after the divorce.
Occasionally, a court may determine it is in the children’s best interests to restrict a parent’s possessory rights. In these cases, the court may declare that visitation times must be supervised. Be aware that a judge cannot prevent a parent from seeing his or her children due to nonpayment of child support. Read our recent blog, Texas Child Support for Non-Custodial Parents.
How Can Child Custody Lawyers for Fathers Help?
There was a time when courts almost always gave custody of the children to the mother. Many women did not work outside of the house, while the fathers had to work long hours or travel extensively. In addition, many courts just assumed that women were better at parenting than men.
Thankfully, that time has largely passed. Today, courts must make custody decisions based on the merits of each individual case. In addition, in many families, both parents work full-time. Today, fathers have the opportunity to be just as good a parent as the woman—and perhaps even better.
This is where child custody lawyers for fathers can play a critical role. A skilled family law attorney can help a father prepare a case to show he is capable of caring for his children. And if you truly think the children will be better off living with you, the lawyer can provide legal advice to help you with that as well.
In short, judges usually do not make child custody decisions based solely upon gender. The most important factor is what type of parent you are.
If you think you are a good father who is deserving of custody, you will want to focus on finding an attorney who specializes in father’s rights, someone who knows how to help you prepare the strongest possible case. Read our recent blog, How to Win Child Custody in Texas.
Do Fathers Always Have to Pay Child Support?
Anytime we talk with fathers about divorce, the subject of child support comes up. Like most states, Texas receives federal funding. To be eligible for this money, Texas law must comply with federal requirements. This means courts actually have very little leeway in establishing child support payments.
Instead, Texas judges use a formula. The main considerations are your income, the number of children involved, and the percentage of time each party has physical possession of the children. The good news is that, depending upon the circumstances, a father also may be able to collect child support payments.
But remember, the judge’s job is to look out for the best interest of the child. It is possible that the judge’s goals will not seem fair to you. This is another reason why a man should want an experienced father’s rights attorney.
Should I Hire a Male Child Custody Lawyer?
It is not necessary for a father to hire a male attorney. A female can do the job just as well, and sometimes better.
On the other hand, we understand that divorce is a personal experience. Getting divorced is not the same as contesting a will or dealing with a bankruptcy case. So we understand that some men may just feel more comfortable hiring a male divorce lawyer. Sean Lynch has extensive experience helping fathers fight for their rights in custody, visitation, and child support.
Ultimately, whether your attorney is a male or female is not important. What does matter is that you find the right father’s rights lawyer. You’ll want an attorney who you feel comfortable with and can have confidence in. You’ll also want a child custody lawyer who can give you good advice. And you’ll want someone who can represent you without breaking your budget. Read our recent blog, How Fixed-cost Billing Saves You Money.
One of the Best Child Custody Lawyers for Fathers
Child custody cases can be complicated and emotionally draining. If you need a Texas family law attorney to help you with your custody case, Sean Lynch is here to help. He is an experienced Fort Worth divorce lawyer who will fight for your father’s custody rights while still being sensitive to the concerns of your children. For a no-cost, 30-minute case consultation, contact us today at 817-668-5879. Because while your role as a spouse may be ending, you want your role as a father to remain stronger than ever.