One question we’re accustomed to getting at the Law Office of Lisa A. Vance is whether judges are biased toward mothers in child custody cases. We get the question from both men and women. Men who are invested in their children’s lives are worried about how much they’ll get to see them following a divorce or after a child custody case. Women want confirmation that they’ll be able to take care of their children. In some cases, they want sole custody, and want to make sure a judge will be in their corner.
While there might be a stereotype that mothers are better able to care for children, and are better suited to child-rearing than fathers, that’s certainly not the way all judges uniformly feel, and that’s certainly not how the law is written.
As our own Lisa Vance emphasizes, “The Texas Family Code speaks of the rights of parents. Note that this word is in its plural form. There is a presumption that parents are the best choice as a child’s caretakers – and there is even a statute that forbids discrimination of parents who are not married to each other.”
That Code section, 160.202, notes that “a child born to parents who are not married to each other has the same rights under the law as a child born to parents who are married to each other.”
Judges tend to base child custody decisions on the children’s needs rather than the parents’ wants. As we pointed out in an article about sole vs. joint child custody a couple of weeks ago, it’s typically best for children to experience parenting from both parents. As long as neither parent is abusive—and the Texas Family Code specifically addresses those cases—a judge isn’t likely to award sole custody.
As we wrote in the prior article, “Courts will look for what’s in the best interest of the child — in fact, that’s a phrase that’s baked into the Texas Family Code. And in many cases, the court’s going to call for some form of joint custody in order to help the children maintain relationships with both parents.”
That being said, judges still need to determine who should be the custodial parent and who should be the non-custodial parent in divorce and decree modification cases. Since child support and standard parenting plans hinge on that designation, it’s an important distinction for the court to make if a couple disputes who should have which role.
We’re now in an era where both parents working is more the norm than the exception, but if one parent brings in more income than the other, and the other parent takes more of a child-rearing role, that might guide the judge in a determination of who should be the custodial parent.
But the non-custodial parent isn’t less important or less worthy of parenting time and being involved in a child’s life.
In Bexar County, there’s even a program called the Shared Parenting Program that helps low-income people settle one of the common types of disputes that comes up for us: When a custodial parent denies the non-custodial parent a block of parenting time. If there’s no agreement between parents spelling out an exception to the decree, parents have to follow the parenting schedule specified in the decree, or they’re in violation of it.
At the Law Office of Lisa A. Vance, we’ve worked in family law for long enough — especially in Bexar County and surrounding counties — to know individual judges and to know how to best make the case for both male and female clients. If you’re concerned about your child custody situation, we’re happy to schedule a consultation and help you toward an agreement that works for you and your children.