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Child Custody Laws

Child custody is always a very emotional issue on the part of both parents and children. That is why it is necessary to have Child Custody Laws in place. Child custody laws differ slightly from State to State. Even if you are an unmarried mother, you should check out what laws apply about child custody in your state. If you are uncertain in any way about custody, you should see your lawyer to get the situation clarified.


Child Custody Laws in Texas

The courts’ aim in Texas is to help and support parents in making responsible decisions agreeable to both parties, regarding their children. Parents are encouraged to make their own arrangements as far as possible. Every child needs to grow up feeling secure and loved by both parents, to succeed in life. Texas Law promotes the involvement and responsibility of both parents equally, in raising their children. Custody or “conservatorship” therefore, will include both parents. A detailed “parenting plan” document has to be submitted before any court hearing in divorce cases.
Each parent by law, has:financial responsibilities toward their childemotional responsibilities toward their childequal custody and visitation rights
It is best to agree on the above points without having to go to court. Professional mediators from the Family Court Services are available to help you come to an agreement.

If parents disagree on any of these issues, the case will have to be decided in court. Court cases are often long and drawn out. You will have the added responsibility of convincing the judge that you are a responsible and competent parent. Both parents are obligated to obey any court orders regarding their child.

Texas law names the parents “conservators” of their child. Court decisions are made in the best interests of the child. Special consideration will be taken if there is a history of domestic violence, or alcohol or substance abuse on the part of either parent. If the child is older than 12 years, the child can also assist in the decision process in court.
The courts willnormally name one parent the sole managing conservator, though custody will be shared establish paternity if there is any doubtthe father will be held accountable for financial support and the court will enforce the support orders when necessaryVisitation rights will be established and tabled.

Child Custody Laws in California

In California, courts decide custody in line with the health, safety and welfare of the child. The interests of the child should always come first. Ideally, both parents should be involved in their child’s life, interests and care.

Parents are also expected to come up with a parenting plan for their children. The judge makes the final decision in the best interest of your child. If parents agree, the judge will usually accept their arrangement.

The two main issues of custody and visitation are dealt with in court if parents cannot agree.
There are two types of custody in California:
* Legal custody is given to the parent who makes the daily care
decisions for your child. The legal custodian makes decisions about
schooling, religion, medical care, travel as well as where the child
can live.
* Physical custody is given to the parent the child actually lives
with. The two may not be given to the same parent.
If shared custody is awarded, it is essential that parents co-operate and communicate frequently with one another.
Either or both parents may be awarded custody after mediation and a court case.
Custody is never denied on the grounds of differing culture, sexual or religious orientation or the disability of one parent.

Visitation refers to the arrangements for sharing time with your children. Plans need to be specific and detailed to avoid conflict.
* Supervised visitation rights may be awarded in cases where there has
been abuse or the child is unfamiliar with a parent.
* Visitation can be refused in cases where contact is considered harmful
to your child.

If you and the child’s father make an agreement concerning custody and visitation, it would be in your, and your child’s best interest to get a court order on your agreement. The judge will sign your agreement and file it with the court clerk. It is then legally binding. This will safeguard you if any agreement is violated.
The one big difference in California child custody laws is that though biological parents get first priority, anyone who feels they can provide a stable and healthy home, can petition the court for custody. Grandparents are most commonly involved in these cases. Siblings are kept together as far as possible.


Child Custody Laws in Florida

The Child custody laws in Florida have recently been radically changed:
* Both mother and father are referred to as a “parent” equalizing the
importance of both of them
* Both have equal rights and roles in their child’s life
* The terms “time sharing” and “parenting plan” are used to decide the
specific role of each parent.
* Shared custody is the norm
* Parenting plans must give details of how parents will share the tasks
regarding their child.

In court, the needs of your child are specifically dealt with. Both parents and children, their schedules and dispositions, are considered in the judge’s decision.
Other factors that might influence the judge would be:
* distance from schools
* health and moral responsibility of the parents
* the child’s preference (applicable when the child is a bit older and
can decide for himself)
* the length of time your child has lived in a stable environment
* the ability to arrange and keep to schedules for the child

The judge may order the parents to attend a parenting course.
Court orders are final and must be obeyed regarding visitation or custody.

Child Custody Cases

Child custody or visitation cases can be changed if both parents agree. If one parent does not agree, the other parent can ask the court for changes, but will have to:
* Complete information forms regarding the changes
* Prove to the judges that certain circumstances have changed and are
now harmful to your child.
* You have to have a very good reason to change a court order
* Go through a mediator first.
Cases where custody and visitation rights are changed include domestic violence or other parent or child abuse. National Domestic Violence hotlines are available for information and help.

Custody cases may be reopened and reconsidered where children have been:
* left unsupervised
* neglected
* abandoned
* mistreated or abused in any way

Guardianship of children might be awarded to a third party to have custody of a child in cases of severe neglect or abuse.


Child Custody Questions

Q: If I add my child’s father’s name to his birth certificate, will it
give the father rights?
A: Yes. You should consult a lawyer before changing anything on a birth
certificate. The child’s father can claim equal visitation rights if
the question is not settled in court. There is nothing you can do
about it till the court decides.

Q: How can paternity be established?
A: Both parents have to sign an “Acknowledgment of Paternity” form to
establish paternity. You can do it voluntarily, or if there is any
question about paternity, the courts will decide after a paternity
DNA test. You should not sign the form if you are not certain. The
man becomes the legal father of your child once the forms are
signed. It will give him full parental rights for both support and

Q: If I am still a minor can I sign for any custody issues?
A: No. You need to have a parent or legal guardian to represent you by
law. If you do not have a friend or close relative willing to stand
in for you, the court will appoint a guardian for you.

Q: Is it important to establish legal fatherhood?
A: Yes. You can only enforce the benefits of support when paternity is

Q: Is the father entitled to visit my child if he is not paying for
A: Yes. Support and visitation issues are dealt with separately. You
have to obey the court order regardless.

Q: If I have custody or visitation issues that need resolving, what
should I do?
A: Contact the Family Court Services in your area. They will help and
advise you.

In any child custody battles, always remember, give priority to your child’s best interests. There is often bitterness and anger involved in child custody. You will have to put your own feelings aside for your child’s sake. Child custody laws establish the boundaries and responsibilities for parents. If you have to go to court to enforce or change custody, remember that the court’s orders are completely binding on both parties.

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