In Texas, custody case hearings are held in child custody court, where both parents present their case before a judge. Family law judges make custody decisions based on the testimony and evidence provided by each parent and issue any orders relevant to your child custody case.
Different Types of Child Custody Hearings
When involved in a custody battle, preparing for custody court is essential. The type of custody hearing will determine what is expected from you, the information you’ll need to provide, and more. An experienced family law attorney will ensure you understand what to expect and help you prepare for the hearing.
Temporary Order Hearing
A temporary order hearing happens in the early stages of the custody process. This hearing will determine temporary custody, visitation, and support arrangements while your custody case is ongoing. Decisions made at a brief order hearing aren’t final and can be modified at later hearings.
Uncontested or Default Final Hearing
An uncontested final hearing is held when both parents have agreed on all custody issues, and a family law judge will review and approve the custody agreement.
In an uncontested hearing, if one of the parents fails to respond or participate, the judge will decide based on information provided by the parent who has experienced it.
Contested Final Hearing
When parents cannot agree on custody issues, a contested final hearing will be held. Each parent will present their case before the judge, and the judge will decide based on the testimony and evidence each parent gives.
While a decision in a contested final hearing is generally final, it can be modified or appealed in certain circumstances.
In a custody case, a modification hearing happens when one parent submits a request to modify the existing custody or visitation order. The parent seeking the change must demonstrate that a significant change in circumstances has occurred and their proposed changes are in their child’s best interests.
If a parent wishes to move a considerable distance away, they may need to seek approval from the family court to modify the existing custody and visitation arrangement. During a relocation hearing, the judge considers factors such as the reason for the move, how the child’s visitation with each parent might be affected, the child’s relationship with each parent and any siblings, and the child’s best interests.
An enforcement hearing can become necessary if one parent does not comply with an existing custody or visitation order. In some instances, the court may impose penalties, such as jail time, fines, and or suspension of your driver’s license, to encourage the parent’s compliance with the existing custody order.
Preparing for Child Custody Court
How you present yourself in custody court can affect you and your children now and in the future. A custody attorney who focuses on the best interests of your children and your best interests as a parent can guide you through a custody case and ensure you receive the best possible outcome.
Your lawyer will review your custody case and advise you on what is needed before your custody hearing. Preparing a parenting plan and custody and visitation schedule may be necessary before the hearing.
Gather and Organize Necessary Documents
Your custody attorney will help ensure you have the necessary documents and enough copies for yourself, the other parent, and the judge.
Essential documents include:
- a proposed parenting plan
- any relevant communication between you and the other parent
- proof of income
- records of your child’s medical, dental, and educational history
Identify and Prepare Witnesses
A witness can provide critical testimony that supports your case in a child custody battle. An experienced family law attorney will identify potential witnesses and determine who to call. Your attorney will ensure each witness is prepared for the hearing.
Potential witnesses include:
- family members
Gather Additional Evidence
Collect any additional evidence that can support your case by showing your ability to provide your child with a stable, nurturing environment.
Additional evidence includes:
- documentation demonstrating your involvement in your child’s life
Questions from the Judge in Child Custody Court
While no custody hearing or case is the same, you can expect the judge to ask a series of personal questions. Your attorney can help you practice responses to these questions.
A judge may ask questions about:
- alcohol or drug use
- any plans for relocation with the child
- domestic violence
- how often and how effectively you communicate with the other parent
- your custody schedule preference and why it’s in your child’s best interest
- your dating life
- your financial status
- your parenting abilities
- your personal life
- your relationship with your child
Prepare for the Judge’s Custody Decision
When deciding in child custody cases, the judge focuses on the child’s best interests. Factors the judge takes into consideration include:
- each parent’s ability to provide for the child’s needs
- the child’s physical and emotional needs
- the stability of each parent’s home environment
- the willingness each parent has to foster a positive relationship between their child and the other parent
After hearing all the testimony and evidence, the judge decides on custody and visitation. The judge’s decision will be announced after the hearing or issued as a written ruling later. Regardless of the outcome of your custody hearing, you must respect the judge’s decision and follow all court orders.
Appeals and Modifications
If you’re dissatisfied with the outcome of your custody hearing or disagree with the judge’s decision, talk with your attorney about the possibility of filing an appeal or requesting a modification to the custody order. The appeals or modification process can be complex, and your attorney can help you understand this process and appeal the custody decision. An appeal will not grant you a new case before a new judge. The purpose of an appeals court is to review your custody case to determine if the judge might have made an error.
Child Custody Court Tips
Present yourself professionally in court since how the judge views your behavior can influence your case’s outcome.
- Address the judge respectfully (“Your Honor”).
- Arrive at the courthouse or log in to virtual hearings early.
- Avoid interrupting others or emotional outbursts.
- Bring all necessary paperwork.
- Please don’t bring children to court or have them in the same room when attending a virtual hearing.
- Dress appropriately.
- Have contact details for your witnesses.
- Speak carefully and slowly.
How to Get Help with Child Custody Court from a Texas Family Law Attorney
If you’re involved in a child custody situation, consult a reputable law firm to find a skilled family law attorney who can provide guidance and representation throughout your custody case.
The Jimenez Law Firm has your best interests in mind and wants to ensure you receive a fair settlement. We’re vested in your child’s best interests and want to help you ensure they have a bright and healthy future.