Disputes within a family are complicated. Living with the unknown can be extremely overwhelming, particularly when it comes to your children.
You want to file for custody of your children, but perhaps you are afraid of the process.
The last thing you want is a long, drawn-out child custody battle that will keep you and your children in limbo. So you may be wondering, How long does a child custody case take in Texas?
Below we outline the factors involved in determining how long your custody case might take to resolve.
Child custody cases in Texas can be challenging. But with the help of an experienced custody lawyer, the process doesn’t necessarily have to be lengthy.
Contact The Larson Law Office PLLC to find out how we can help expedite the process for you.
What Is a Child Custody Case in Texas?
Under Texas law, child custody is called “conservatorship.” A court decides conservatorship cases.
A managing conservator is a person who has the right to make significant decisions about the child’s life. This includes decisions regarding education, religion, and issues involving the child’s physical and mental health.
Texas courts generally default to appointing both parents as Joint Managing Conservators unless there is a history of abuse, violence, or substance abuse. This means that both parents make important decisions regarding the child’s life.
The other aspect of a Texas conservatorship case is possession. Possession refers to the amount of physical time the child spends with each parent. Texas courts generally presume that the Texas standard possession order is appropriate.
This order sets one parent’s home as the child’s primary residence, and the other parent has possession the first, third, and fifth weekends monthly, and on Thursdays.
Parents can ask for their schedule to deviate from the standard possession order, but they must show that their proposed plan is in the child’s best interest.
Child Custody Case Process
So how long do custody cases last in Texas? To answer this question, you must understand the process and the potential hiccups that delay a case. The case begins with one parent filing a petition for conservatorship called a Suit Affecting the Parent-Child Relationship.
That parent must have the other parent served with the petition, or the other parent can waive service. The recipient parent has 20 days to file an answer with the court. They may also file a counter-petition for conservatorship. The court will schedule hearing dates.
An uncontested case is one where the parents quickly agree to a custody plan. However, the case is considered “contested” if the parents disagree with each other’s proposed parenting plans.
The court will typically first refer a contested child custody case to mediation, where the parties can settle the case at any time.
Through mediation, the parties and their lawyers negotiate and try to reach a mutually acceptable resolution with the help of an impartial mediator. If the parents are fighting over small matters, a family attorney can explain how judges typically resolve those issues.
If the parties know how a judge will likely decide an issue, it might inspire them to be reasonable. Coming to a voluntary compromise will end the case much sooner—and with less stress and expense—than dragging everyone through a trial.
But if the parties cannot or will not agree, the judge will hold a trial and issue a final order that the parties must follow.
How Long Does a Child Custody Case Take in Texas?
The length of time a custody case takes depends entirely on whether the parents can reach an agreement, and how quickly that occurs.
An uncontested custody case could take only a couple of months or less. However, the process can take over a year if it’s contested. Many fall between these two extremes, and most parents eventually settle with the help of a mediator.
Sometimes there are good reasons to go to a trial on a custody matter. For instance, if you are afraid the other parent is risking harm to your child, then it would be in your child’s best interest to fight it out at trial.
But in other instances where the child isn’t being harmed, in most cases parents usually realize that refusing to budge on minor issues is not worth dragging out the process and incurring the expense of attorney’s fees.
Speak with a Knowledgeable Attorney
Not knowing how long a custody case in Texas may take can be scary. However, a family lawyer familiar with the process will be able to give you a clearer understanding of how long your case may take.
The Larson Law Office PLLC is exceptionally well-versed in Texas family law matters. We can help answer questions about how long a custody matter can take and represent you whether the case settles or goes to trial. Contact us today.