In your custody case, you are best served when you hire an experienced family law attorney to help you. The case can be difficult and require the specialized knowledge that someone with experience in family law has. There are likely numerous attorneys in your area that represent clients in family law cases. For you, the question is how to hire the right one.
You should go into your search for a child custody lawyer with somewhat of a checklist in mind. It is vital that your attorney has the right qualities. You should pay close attention when you are speaking with the attorney so that you can learn more about them. Although you can always switch attorneys after your case has started, it is easier to find and stick with the same lawyer throughout your case. Otherwise, the new attorney would need to spend time getting up to speed and perhaps repeating work that the first lawyer has already done. Not only would the new attorney’s time be better spent continuing to move your case forward, they’d likely charge you for the time they spend getting up to speed and doing any repeat work.
In a child custody case, the end result is what matters most. The hope is that you can get there without litigation or any sort of bitterness. After all, you need to continue to work with the other parent for the duration of your kids’ childhoods. Hiring a child custody lawyer is actually one way to help your case proceed more smoothly because the attorney could get involved, keeping you from having to deal with the other parent directly and helping prevent unnecessary disputes.
Custody Matters Can Take a Long Time (and Should Take as Long as Necessary)
Your custody matter may stretch on for some time, especially if there is a possibility of a hearing. You are trying to achieve the result that is in the best interests of the children. Each case operates on its own timetable. You should not reach an agreement just for the sake of having one. Instead, you should agree on terms that benefit the children, while building and preserving your relationship with them.
There is no one-size-fits-all approach to a custody case, even though Texas law has certain presumptions. You and your children have your own unique circumstances that must be accounted for in the ultimate agreement and court order.
Custody Terms and Arrangements that You Should Know
Child custody will involve two major areas:
- The issue of who will make the major decisions on behalf of the child
- Physical possession of the child and where they will spend their time
Here are some of the potential arrangements in a custody case:
- Joint custody is when the two parties share equally in key decisions relating to the children. These decisions impact the health and welfare of a child. They can include educational, medical, and legal decisions. In Texas, there is a presumption that parents will have joint custody of a child; however, one parent may be able to overcome the presumption when they present specific evidence.
- Sole custody is when one parent has the right to make the decisions. Sole custody is usually reserved for extreme cases, such as when there is a history of abuse or when one parent has a substance abuse problem. The law operates under the assumption that a child benefits when both parents are involved in making decisions. However, there will be cases where parents simply cannot work together, and a court may need to make a choice.
When it comes to physical custody, one parent may be awarded primary physical custody, with the other parent receiving visitation rights. Texas law has a standard possession order when one parent has physical custody. The non-custodial parent is entitled to spend the first, third, and fifth weekends of the month with the child. In addition, they can also spend a couple of hours every Thursday, along with alternating holidays and one month each summer. There are different rules when the parents live more than 100 miles apart from each other.
Child Custody Cases Can Be Difficult
A child custody case is usually emotional. Your connection and relationship with your child is at stake. It is understandable that you would be experiencing extreme anxiety and stress. It is difficult to make decisions under these circumstances; however, the choices that you make during a child custody dispute can and will stay with you for years. Once a custody order is entered, it is difficult (but possible) to modify it.
You will be working closely with your attorney, and you are placing a great deal of trust in them. Your children’s futures will depend on the result of the custody case, and your lawyer will be the one who presents your side and negotiates a potential solution if possible.
You Must Do Your Due Diligence on a Potential Attorney
You should always speak to an attorney before you hire them for your case. The stakes could not be higher, and the right legal counsel could make a difference in your case. An attorney may be the right lawyer for someone else, but they may not be the best match for you. Your working relationship with your child custory lawyer is extremely important and can impact the result of your case. Attorneys have different styles, and you must find the one whose style suits you best and who meets your expectations for an attorney and this process. Communication is essential during your case, and you must feel comfortable with the person you have chosen.
Take Advantage of an Initial Consultation
Many family law attorneys offer either free or heavily discounted initial consultations. You can discuss the specifics of your case and learn more about your lawyer. You should come prepared with questions to ask the attorney, both about your case and about how they will provide service.
You may like the first attorney with whom you have spoken. However, there is nothing that says that you have to hire the first attorney that you interview. You may be better off if you take the time to compare several options before making a decision. Timing considerations should not cause you to rush your decision.
Your Lawyer Should Pay Attention to You and Listen to Your Concerns
The best child custody lawyer for you has the right mix of counseling and advocacy skills to help with your situation. Your lawyer must listen to you and understand your concerns. At the same time, they need to explain your legal options in clear terms and outline your potential choices. You will likely have many questions throughout the process. A legal case can be scary and difficult to understand. However, you are expected to make decisions at key points of the case.
At the very minimum, your attorney should have the following interpersonal and service skills to deal with you during the case:
It is crucial that you choose an attorney who is available to you and responsive to your concerns. When you are going through a stressful child custody case, you do not want to wait days for your lawyer to get back to you, or have to make multiple calls for them to return one. Having access to your lawyer is vital, both for your peace of mind and the success of your case. After all, your lawyer’s recommendations should be based on your own specific situation, which they will learn about by talking to you.
A Child Custody Lawyer Needs to Be Pragmatic
You also need a level-headed and pragmatic lawyer to help with your case. Oftentimes, the lawyer is the calm voice in the room when emotions threaten to get out of hand. You never want a child custody case to reach the point of no return, where you can no longer work with the other parent.
Most child custody cases will eventually reach an agreement without the need for a court hearing. To get to that point, however, you may need extensive negotiation and practical thinking. In some cases, you may need creative and outside-the-box solutions to vexing problems. The best type of child custody lawyer is one who can help you keep calm and lower tensions during your case.
There may be a time when you need a gloves-off litigator. For this reason, your attorney should have experience in court in front of a judge and/or jury. An experienced family law attorney will know when you need to talk and when you may need to go to court. That said, litigation should be a last resort. Your attorney should prioritize being a practical problem solver who can help you stay out of court if possible.
Word of Mouth Is a Helpful Way to Find a Lawyer
In addition, you should seek recommendations for child custody lawyers from family or friends. Someone who has dealt with the attorney before is often the best judge of the attorney’s skill and service. When the recommendation comes from someone whom you trust, it may mean even more than the review from a faceless person on the internet who you will never meet. Many good attorneys are found through word of mouth.
Still, you should also pay attention to online reviews. The most reliable online reviews are objective ones that have been written by former clients. Most lawyers generally have more positive reviews than negative ones. You should pay close attention to the all of the reviews. More than one former client saying the same thing is a likely indicator of the truth about the lawyer.
Divorce is already a stressful and difficult enough time for you. Children go through a particularly tough time during a divorce. You need to provide them with security and reassurance. The custody arrangements that you make will have long-term impacts on their lives and can help them adjust and make the transition as successfully as possible. It may be difficult for you to think of solutions on your own when you are in the middle of a stressful situation. Oftentimes, personalities and conflicts could get in the way of a sensible and level-headed resolution. That is exactly why you hire an attorney—for common sense and practical advice to help you, your children, and your situation.
Contact a Brazoria County Family Law Attorney
The lawyers at Terry & Roberts are your trusted counselors and advocates in a child custody case. We will learn your concerns and what is important to you and your children before we recommend a course of action that is tailored to your needs and goals. We care about our clients, and we will do everything within our power to help them reach the best possible result in their case. Contact us today to discuss your case.