Navigating a Texas divorce can be hard, especially when it involves minor children. When it comes to child custody and support, the law encourages parents to prioritize the children's well-being and to work to come up with an optimal arrangement.
Many people harbor misconceptions about the way custody works in Texas. Acting upon them can actively damage a case and lead to an outcome that benefits neither parents or children.
1. Informal agreements work as well as a court order
People sometimes think that if the divorce is amicable, they can work out major issues such as custody on their own. Although collaborative solutions can yield many benefits and Texas law encourages them, it is important to stay within a formal legal framework. Parents need to draw up a written agreement and submit it to the judge for approval. This also holds true for a subsequent custody modification: Even if the parents agree on what changes to make, they still need to formally submit them to the court.
2. Mothers get custody automatically
Although there was, indeed, a time when the law presumed young children were better off with their mothers, this is no longer the current approach. Instead, Texas courts begin deliberating custody matters from the point of view that it is in the children's best interest to have their parents participate equally in all aspects of childrearing. Of course, in a particular case, circumstances might dictate a different approach, so each determination stems from a review of relevant factors.
3. It is appropriate to withhold support or visitation to punish the other parent
Contrary to a popular misconception, visitation and child support are separate issues. One parent cannot penalize the other for nonpayment by withholding scheduled visitation. Conversely, if one parent fails to comply with the visitation schedule, the other cannot start withholding support payments. In either case, the proper recourse would be to file a motion with the court and ask it to enforce the parenting plan or the support order.