Child Custody matters are a variety of lawsuits that deal with which person has legal authority to have primary possession and control of a child in Texas. These suits may be in the form of:
Suit to Adjudicate Parentage – A lawsuit in which a person who believes that they or some other person is the parent of the child, and there has been no Acknowledgement of Paternity (AOP) form signed and filed. The paternity suit seeks a court order which determines who the child’s legal parents are and which of the parents will have legal custody of the child. A paternity suit may also be used to EXCLUDE a person from being a parent of the child by determining that a particular person is NOT a legal parent of the child.
Suit Affecting the Parent Child Relationship (SAPCR) – A lawsuit in which a person who believes that they or some other person is the parent of the child, and there has been no Acknowledgement of Paternity (AOP) form signed and filed. The paternity suit seeks a court order which determines who the child’s legal parents are and which of the parents will have legal custody of the child. A paternity suit may also be used to EXCLUDE a person from being a parent of the child by determining that a particular person is NOT a legal parent of the child.
Motion to Modify – a lawsuit in which a person who has already been determined to be a legal parent of the child (by virtue of the child being born during a prior marriage which ended with the Court issuing a Final Decree of Divorce; or which has already been determined by a signed Court Order) which now, for whatever reason, needs to be modified. There are special rules that apply to modification suits that are filed within one year of the last order for which modification is sought.
Regardless of which of the above types of custody case above that you find yourself involved in, all custody cases involve the same basic procedure described below:
How Does A Custody Case Work In Texas?
Starting a Custody Law Suit – The Initial Filing
After hiring an experienced child custody attorney in a contested custody case, an Original Petition In Suit Affecting (or To Modify) The Parent-Child Relationship is filed on your behalf. Your case is then randomly assigned by the clerk to a District Court or County Court at Law (if your county has one) in the county in which you and/or the child live. If there is a prior order which is being modified, the “Motion to Modify” that order must be filed in the Court that made the last valid order. The Bloodworth Law Firm, P.L.L.C., handles contested custody cases all over the State of Texas, however, we concentrate our practice in several Southeast Texas counties: Montgomery County, Walker County, Harris County, Polk County, San Jacinto County, Trinity County, Grimes County, Madison County, and Leon County, Texas. After the Petition is filed, a copy of the Petition is served on the parent(s) of the child(ren) and any other persons with Court Ordered relationships with the child(ren) by a process server. If the parent(s) or other party files the Original Petition or Petition to Modify, you must file an “Answer” as well as a “Counterpetition.” It is usually of little legal consequence which party files first. If you are looking for a child custody lawyer in Conroe, Texas, then call the Bloodworth Law Firm, today.
Temporary Restraining Orders
Depending on the circumstances it may be necessary or advisable to serve a Temporary Restraining Order on other party when the custody case is filed. This is a common practice. In fact, many courts have adopted ‘Standing Restraining Orders’ that become effective the moment a custody case is filed, whether you ask for a Temporary Restraining Order or not. A Temporary Restraining Order, or “TRO,” is not the same thing as a criminal ‘protective order’ and does mean there has been any misbehavior by you. A TRO contains a series of prohibitions that require both parties to maintain the current status (status quo) of their conduct toward each other and prohibits certain misbehavior during the suit. All parties before the court are prohibited from such things as: disturbing the peace of the child, hiding or secreting the child(ren) from the other party, destroying any property belonging to the child or documents that may be relevant in the custody case, changing the children’s school or daycare, destroying the child(ren)’s clothing, cherished possessions, or sentimental items, among other restrictions. The purpose of the TRO is to prevent one party from making any large changes in the current status without the consent of the other party. The Bloodworth Law Firm, P.L.L.C., will always try to keep the process as simple as possible. Filing a TRO helps to prevent bad conduct and contributes to a peaceful resolution of the custody case. If you are looking for a child custody lawyer in The Woodlands, Texas then please call us at the Bloodworth Law Firm, we would welcome the opportunity to serve you.
The Temporary Orders Hearing
If you and the other party cannot agree on where the child(ren) should live, what visitation a party should have with the child, or who should pay child support; a Temporary Order hearing may be necessary. In a Temporary Orders Hearing, which is designed to be short, a judge will hear from the parties and possibly other witnesses which are necessary for the judge to make a temporary ruling on issues like temporary child custody, and child support. The temporary order ruling the judge makes is not final, but will only remain in place until the custody case is finalized or if circumstances change significantly. Many people can come to a temporary agreement without having a temporary order hearing. Some courts, especially those in Harris County and Montgomery County, require that the parties attend “mediation” before a Temporary Orders Hearing. Many times, parties who request a temporary order hearing, have discussions at the courthouse while awaiting their turn for a hearing and reach agreement on all the issues in their custody case. If this happens, some judges will allow the parties to testify as to the terms of their agreement. If their agreement is approved by the judge, that agreement can be made a Final Order and the case is over. In this way, many times parties who asked for and attended a Temporary Orders hearing get their custody case resolved faster than people who just file for custody and do not request temporary orders. If you are looking for a child custody lawyer in Huntsville, Texas, or the surrounding area such as, The Woodlands, Conroe, Houston, or Livingston, then call us at the Bloodworth Law Firm; we are here to help you.
For many custody case cases, especially those who have a lot of “he said, she said” factual disputes regarding past events, which are the reason for the modification of custody, can only be resolved by getting to the bottom of what really happened. “Discovery” is the legal term used to describe the process of getting the information from the opposing party that they intend to use against you at trial. Discovery is a critical portion of the contested custody case process. Trial by “ambush” is not allowed in Texas, unless you fail to exercise your right to conduct “discovery.” A smart lawyer doesn’t ask a question at trial that he doesn’t already know the answer to. The way the lawyer gets those answers is by conducting “discovery.” During the discovery process both sides can ask questions, in writing (Interrogatories) and in person (Depositions), and request documents from the other party. Your lawyer will work with you to prepare your documents (if they are requested) as well as review and explain the documents provided by the other party. By conducting “discovery,” and spending valuable time examining the information provided, you and your attorney can many times obtain documents, papers, and things to be used as exhibits at trial. Many times, you discover valuable information in the discovery phase that dramatically increases your opportunity to win at trial. If you, for whatever the reason, do not spend the time and money on the discovery phase, you may be unable to determine if the settlement offer made to you is “fair” because you cannot determine if a ‘deal’ is really a “good deal” for you if you don’t know the total that was available to be included in the deal. If you are looking for a child custody lawyer in Livingston, Texas, or the surrounding area then call us at the Bloodworth Law Firm; we would enjoy helping you.
Many courts require mediation, as part of the process of custody case. Mediation is a process where a neutral third party, called a mediator, who has specialized training in helping people resolve disputes, will help the you and your opponent reach an agreement. Your attorney will be present during mediation to protect your legal rights and help you negotiate effectively. Agreements reached during the mediation process are binding and enforceable. If the parties agree, the parties can decide to make the mediated settlement agreement “Irrevocable,” then when the Irrevocable (Unchangeable) Mediated Settlement Agreement is signed, neither party can change his/her mind. This is why you will probably want to conduct the “discovery” aspect of your case and take your time to make certain you are completely aware of the full impact of any agreement that you make, before you make it, and are prepared to live with the consequences.
In the event the parties cannot reach an agreement a final trial will be held. At the final trial, all the issues and evidence will be presented to a judge or a jury for a decision. William Douglas Bloodworth II is an experienced trial lawyer and an expert in family law. Attorney Bloodworth can help you effectively prepare and present your side of the story to a judge or a jury. Attorney Bloodworth is comfortable in the courtroom and is not afraid of anyone. William D. Bloodworth II is an accomplished public speaker, trial strategist, and has successfully battled some of the largest law firms in the nation to obtain very favorable and satisfying verdicts and results for his clients. Call the Bloodworth Law Firm today to schedule an appointment to discuss your case, or E-mail the Bloodworth Law Firm P.L.L.C., today, and put a passionate, prepared, and effective attorney to work for you today!