Each child custody case has unique circumstances that influence the outcome of the case and how long it will take to reach a conclusion. If you are concerned about the timeline of a custody case, you may have questions such as, “How long does a child custody case take in Texas?”
Generally speaking, child custody disputes can range from months to years. The key is working with a family law attorney to help you navigate each key step in the process to shorten the timeline. Some additional factors will also determine the length of the case.
Let’s dive into the fundamentals of child custody cases in our state and see which factors can impact your time commitment.
What Does Child Custody Mean in Texas?
Child custody refers to two rights. One of those rights is physical custody, also called possession in Texas, which refers to the right to play a role in your child’s living arrangements.
If you share physical custody, you have a say in where your child lives. Joint physical custody doesn’t always mean the child will spend equal time with each parent. But it does mean the child lives with each parent.
On the other hand, legal custody – also called conservatorship in Texas – gives a parent the right to participate in decisions affecting the child’s life. Some examples include:
Even if a parent cannot obtain joint physical custody, they may still get joint legal custody.
Factors That Influence the Time to Resolve Custody Cases
The time to resolve your case will often depend on several factors, including the following central issues.
Contested or Uncontested
The willingness of the parents to agree on custody will play a major role in how long your case lasts. If either parent refuses to compromise to reach a fair custody arrangement, you will need to go to court. A trial can require months of preparation and can increase the time your case takes.
If the parents can compromise but have trouble communicating with each other, mediation can often resolve the issues more quickly than litigation. In mediation, the parents meet separately with an independent mediator. The mediator works through the custody evaluation process to create a solution both parents feel comfortable with.
The quickest way to resolve the dispute involves the parents working through their family lawyers to settle the case. This option avoids the time needed for mediation or a trial.
The Complexity of the Issues
When deciding on custody in family court, judges must look at everything that could affect the child. Keep in mind that judges are tasked with acting in the best interest of the child, according to the Texas Family Code.
Some issues that can complicate the custody timeline include allegations affecting the parent-child relationship. These may include:
- Spousal or family violence
- Child neglect or abuse
- Substance abuse
- Abandonment of the child
- Mental illness of a parent
- Special needs of the child
- Absence because of homelessness or incarceration
When cases involve these kinds of issues, the parents might dispute whether the allegations are true and how they should affect custody. These discussions and deliberations could add a considerable amount of time to the timeline.
Where the Parents Live
Another factor that can influence the length of a case involves where the parents live. Specifically, if one of the parents lives outside Texas, the court will face challenges in managing the case and crafting a fair custody order.
One parent might need to make travel arrangements to attend hearings, settlement conferences, and a trial. The difficulty in coordinating schedules might create delays in the case.
Aside from these practical considerations, the judge will also need to develop a fair custody order that accounts for:
- The time and cost of the child’s travel
- Where the child will attend school
- School calendars
For example, suppose that one parent moved the child to Oklahoma after separating from the other parent, who stayed in Texas. Depending on who is assigned the roles of custodial parent and non-custodial parent, the judge could order the child to stay in one state during the school year and travel to the other state for summer break and school holidays longer than three days.
A custom parenting plan might be required in this type of situation, which will require additional time for the judge to make a decision in the child’s best interest after each parent reaches an agreement on the arrangement. Working with a child custody lawyer is absolutely necessary to protect your interests in unique situations.
How a Family Law Attorney Can Keep Your Case on Track
So, how long does a child custody case take in Texas? The answer is not fixed, as every situation is unique. Working with a custody lawyer is the best course of action to help resolve your case according to your desired timeline.
A knowledgeable attorney from Parker & Aguilar can help you address key issues on the path to deciding the case efficiently. And an experienced lawyer knows which arguments to present before the court on the path to helping you obtain the best possible outcome.
Our goal is to resolve your case as efficiently as possible, protect the best interests of both you and your child, and help you obtain a final order in your favor.
We currently support parents in Fort Bend County, Brazoria County, Galveston County, and Matagorda County. If you live in one of these counties, reach out to our child custody attorneys for immediate support with your child support case.
You can reach our offices at 979-267-7660 (Angleton office) or 281-944-5485 (Sugar Land office) to speak with one of our helpful attorneys about your case and the desired timeline for resolving the matter. Let’s get to work on your child custody case.