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Protecting your parental rights from an ex-spouse

Divorce marks the end of a partnership that both parties hoped would last a lifetime. The plans of a happy family with children fade into disputes regarding custody (conservatorship), possession, access and support.

Sometimes parents disagree about the wellbeing of their children. Your ex-spouse may decide that he or she now wants the primary rights and responsibilities for your child. If this happens, it's important to work with an attorney who has experience and skill helping individuals retain their rights. It's also a good idea to understand the basics about how divorce and child conservatorships work in Texas.

Types of conservatorships (child custody)

In Texas, there are two types of conservatorships: sole and joint. Neither type refers to the amount of time that a parent enjoys with a child but, instead, who has the right to make decisions.

  • Sole managing conservatorship (SMC): Generally, a sole conservatorship gives one parent greater rights than the other regarding decisions about how and where to raise their child. A parent may become the conservator because the other parent is either unfit or absent. If this is the case, it can be an uphill battle for the ex-spouse to reverse the court's decision, as long as the custodial parent acts reasonably and in their child's best interests.
  • Joint managing conservatorship (JMC): JMC means both parents have a say in the decisions and welfare regarding their child, and it is not a huge leap for a court to revise its order or make changes to placement.

Factors for awarding conservatorships

Texas courts review certain issues when an action arises regarding a change to the conservatorship and primary placement of a child.

  • Affection: The court can take very seriously one parent's attempt to negatively affect a child's love for the other parent. Although your relationship with him or her has deteriorated, refrain from alienating your ex. Either make positive remarks and gestures, or keep a neutral position.
  • Visitation: If your ex-spouse has been awarded certain visitation rights by the court, it is advisable to follow that order to the letter. If the time and dates agreed to or ordered are difficult, ask the court to make changes that are more practical. Until then, always have your child available at the designated time and place for visitation. If a non-custodial parent establishes that these visitations are being withheld, they can ask the court to modify the visitation order or even ask that they be granted primary custody.
  • Work schedule: It may be somewhat rare, but sometimes a court can change custody and placement because a parent's work schedule appears too demanding to balance the needs of a child. If you take a job that has erratic hours or takes you away from the child for long periods of time, that could open the door to the other parent pursuing custody and primary placement. Courts generally agree that children need stability and consistency.

A divorce decree or custody arrangement is not written in stone. Either you or your ex-spouse can bring an action seeking a modification if your circumstances change.

The divorce and modification processes in Texas are complicated. However, you do not need to face them on your own. Contact the Law Office of Nancy H. Boler for skilled legal assistance.

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