Child Custody and Visitation Outcomes

Setting child custody and visitation terms during a divorce is not easy. In fact, it is likely one of the biggest contributors to conflict throughout the process. And that conflict can do an enormous amount of damage to the feelings of safety and security your child feels as he or she goes through it with you. It’s important you get this right if you decide divorce is the best option available. 

At Davis, Ermis & Roberts, P.C., we try to help parents reach agreements best suited to them, and we try to do it with as little conflict as possible. But to understand how we get there, you first have to understand what’s entailed with the processes of child custody and visitation. 

Child Custody vs. Child Visitation: How They Differ

Child custody, or “conservatorship” as it is referred to in Texas, is a role reserved for one of the parents going through a divorce. This can be determined in one of two ways — you reach an agreement together on what is acceptable and you have a judge sign off on it; or, you leave it in the hands of the court to decide. 

The latter option is the most common, and it also creates the most potential for conflict. This especially is true when each parent has a heavy desire to be the child’s conservator. Whoever is named the conservator will hold the primary day-to-day responsibilities of providing for the child’s emotional and physical needs. However, that doesn’t mean he or she is on their own. 

The other parent will typically be obligated to pay child support (about 25 percent of their post-divorce net income for one child). They also have some degree of parental decision-making rights, though this varies depending on the extent of the custodial arrangement.

If you are not the custodial parent, you will likely receive visitation rights. Those rights are judged on a case-by-case basis depending on the living arrangements involved. Obviously, if you move to another state, it will affect the amount of time you get to spend with your child. But it won’t cut you off from the child altogether.

Most responsible parents still receive opportunities to spend one-on-one time with their child. Example: summers and holidays or every other weekend. But again, this all depends on the parent’s willingness to be involved and their record of personal responsibility (i.e., no criminal activity or history of impaired behaviors). 

Grandparents also have some rights under Texas law, with most courts willing to grant visitation rights if they believe it is in the best interests of the child and one of the following contingencies exist: 

  • The parents divorced;
  • The parent abused or neglected the child;
  • The parent has been incarcerated, found incompetent, or died;
  • A court-order terminated the parent-child relationship; or
  • The child has lived with the grandparent for at least six months

(Source: Texas Attorney General website)

Determining the Best Interests of the Child

In Texas, the popular phrase “best interests of the child” refer to three key areas: the physical, mental, and emotional. Let’s briefly look at each one. 

  • Physical: Custody and visitation rights are determined to be in the child’s best interests if the parents are non-violent; have little to no criminal history; have the monetary resources to provide for the child’s physical needs (i.e., food, clothing, shelter); and have demonstrated responsible behaviors in regard to the child’s immediate safety and well-being. 
  • Mental: Mental “best interests of the child” would mean the child isn’t placed in situations or settings where there could be some threat to their healthy mental development and stability. This is a complex area because it can sometimes butt up against other rights (i.e., freedom of speech, religion, etc.). Just taking the broad strokes here, you need to ensure the child will receive a legally acceptable education under your care, be it through public school, private charter, or accredited homeschooling. 
  • Emotional: When the child is in your care, will you nurture them socially and emotionally in healthy ways? Will you provide a disciplined environment where they can learn about healthy borders? Will you maintain and encourage a positive relationship with the other parent? 

Parents (or grandparents) who are better equipped to address each of these areas have a strong case for visitation rights at the very least. And if the final order doesn’t come out in your favor, committing to these principles make it easier to request changes to visitation or custody rights later.

The Importance of a Well-Rounded Defense

For parents going through a divorce, children are the most important people in the world. They keep you motivated to live a good life, even if the decision regarding child custody and visitation doesn’t seem fair. You want to do right by them, and that means keeping their best interests at the forefront through every step of the process. At Davis, Ermis & Roberts, P.C., we’ve been helping parents do just that for many years. Contact us today for help with your custody or visitation dispute.