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Travis County, TX child custody lawyerIn a perfect world, parents who decide to end their marriage are able to come to an agreement on custody and visitation. Unfortunately, it is far more common for parents to disagree on child custody arrangements and a complex court battle often ensues. In these cases, the court will typically order a custody evaluation, also referred to as a social study in Texas family law. The following is a brief overview of this process. If you are divorcing your spouse and anticipate a complex child custody dispute, make sure to contact Powers and Kerr, PLLC for legal assistance.

What Is Involved in a Custody Evaluation?

When parents are unable to present an agreed-upon parenting plan to the court, the judge may order a custody evaluation in order to obtain additional information regarding the background and lifestyle of each parent, their parenting styles, the type of home environment they could provide the child, their employment situation, and relationship status. The evaluations are usually conducted by social workers or some other professional whose background includes working with children and families.

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Austin, TX Child Custody lawyerOne of the most difficult issues to work through in many Texas divorces is child custody. Even if the couple agrees that divorce is the best option for their future, agreeing on what happens with their children is something that they may not agree on.

However, if the couple cannot negotiate and agree on child custody and parenting plan, the judge presiding over their divorce will make that decision for them and their decision may not be one that either parent wants.

Negotiating a Parenting Plan

A parenting plan puts in writing how the couple will co-parent in the future. Some of the issues that need to be addressed include:

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Austin, TX child custody lawyerDetermining child custody and parenting time in a Texas divorce can be a complex issue to navigate around. It can become even more complex if the two parents do not live in close proximity to each other. When this is the case, there are certain factors besides the typical custody and parenting time decisions that need to be addressed.

The State of Texas

In many other states in the nation, traveling issues do not often need to be addressed when the parents live in the same state. Their state is small enough that distance does not really become a problem. Traveling does need to be addressed if the parents live in different states.

But Texas is the second largest state in the country. It takes up almost 10 percent of the total land size of the United States. Going from Point A to Point B often involves hours of driving or a trip to one of the state’s four major airports.

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Travis County family law attorneyThere are several issues that can cause significant tension between a couple going through a divorce, but the one issue that often causes the most stress is deciding what type of child custody arrangement will be made for the couple’s children. Attempting to predict how the court will rule is fairly impossible since there is such a wide array of factors the judge can consider. The only constant in any child custody case is that the court will base its decision on the best interests of the child.

Understanding What Custody Actually Is

Under Texas law, there are two types of custody that the court considers. The first is possessory conservatorship, also referred to as physical custody. Physical custody is what most often comes to mind for many people when they hear the word “custody” and means the right of the parent to have physical control over the child and where the child will live.

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Travis County, TX family lawyerIt is not uncommon for parents to disagree about parenting style. Even parents who are together can have different opinions about how their children should be raised. When the parents are divorced, these differences may even become more pronounced. However, there is a difference between different parenting styles – such as one parent being strict about bedtimes while the other parent lets the child stay up as late as they want – and parenting choices and behaviors that can actually put a child in harm’s way. Knowing what those differences are and when you should report the other parent can be crucial to your child’s safety.

When to Report

No matter how upsetting it may be, the court will not intervene just because one parent does not agree with the way their ex-spouse is parenting their child. They will intervene, however, if there is evidence of any of the following:

  • Behavioral and/or emotional changes in your child – If your child comes home from visits with the other parent withdrawn or acting out, this could be a sign that your child is being emotionally abused. While it is normal for children to exhibit some acting-out behaviors following custody exchanges and visitation, especially in the first few months following a divorce, dramatic changes in your normally outgoing child could be an indication that something is wrong.

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