Ensuring Equal Parenting Rights as a Father during Custody Agreements (Ep. 17)

When women were the primary caregiver for their children, courts tended to favour them when dealing with divorce and custody arrangements. Today, many families split both parenting and work.

In this episode, Justin Sisemore and Andrea Jones dive into the father’s rights regarding child custody. They focus on how custody proceedings have changed and what should be prioritized when aiming for primary custody, whether you are a man or woman.

Justin and Andrea discuss:

  •  What father’s rights mean in the modern custody case
  • How courts determine primary custody when both parents work
  • Why 50/50 custody may not be the best option for the child’s development
  • The importance of keeping an organized and clear presentation of legal strategies during custody cases 
  • And more!

Connect with Justin Sisemore

Connect with Andrea Jones:

Read the Show Transcript

[00:00:00] Nobody wants to end up in family court, but if you do, you want an honest, experienced family law attorney by your side to help minimize the stress, mental anguish, and legal costs that divorce and custody matters bring Welcome to in your Best Interest. Texas divorce attorney and entrepreneur, Justin Sisemore of the Sisemore Law Firm entrepreneur, Andrea Jones, freelance writer Mary Maloney, and guests share insight on what to expect and how to handle family law matters, the changing landscape of family law and living the entrepreneur’s life now onto the show. 

When battling over child custody, many fathers assume the family courts will give their child’s mother a preferential custody arrangement. And while this tended to be the case in the past, fathers in states like Texas can now expect to get fair treatment in the family courts as long as they understand their legal rights and options. In today’s episode of [00:01:00] In Your Best Interest, the panel will discuss what fathers can expect and how to best prepare for a custody fight. 

Thanks for joining us for this episode of In Your Best Interest. I’m Mary Maloney, and today, attorney Justin Sisemore, entrepreneur Andrea Jones, and I will discuss the topic of father’s rights in Texas. So Justin, let’s kick it off with the fact that you’ve mentioned you don’t necessarily believe in the concept of father’s rights lawyers. Can you explain your position on this? 

Justin – Yeah, I think the, the fundamental misconception. That that is applied when you’re talking about father’s rights, is really nowadays what you’re dealing with is both spouses, uh, working in the, in the work field and in the past, in years past it, it kind of seemed like the courts were biased against fathers. I don’t like that connotation. Uh, especially not in today’s times because now a lot of the courts are basing the child custody provisions on what the parties have been doing and how they set up their, their family [00:02:00] household. So by just stating that I’m a father’s rights lawyer, uh, or a mother’s rights lawyer would seem to indicate that, uh, there’s some type of bias or prejudice towards the working, um, spouse. And in today’s time, we have both parties working. So a lot of what the court is making, the determination when they’re looking at visitation schedules or the rights and duties, uh, really applies to more nowadays what the party’s work schedule is, the flexibility they have, what level of involvement they’ve had with the children. And so when you say I am a father’s rights lawyer, that implies that the courts have a bias or prejudice. Um, and we really don’t see that a whole lot today. And, and even in years past, you know, in the past 15 years, we have seen some transformation in how parties work together to co-parent and how parties cooperate in, in child rearing. Um, and I just think that the times, uh, have caught up with really the notion that both parties step, uh, into the [00:03:00] child rearing situation on equal footing. Um, I also don’t like the connotation of, of the father’s rights cuz it seems to indicate that they didn’t have any before. And they certainly do and they have, and there’s a lot of fathers and mothers who provide a lot of equal input. They balance schedules and things like that. So I just think it’s kind of an outdated term. Um, I think it’s more of a marketing ploy than anything else. And you know, when I, if I advocated that I’m a father’s rights attorney, it seems to indicate that I, that I don’t look at the best interest or that the courts don’t look at the best interest and that’s simply not the case. 

Mary – So, and I know speaking with one of your other attorneys the other day, she said that she, you know, she’s a kid’s rights attorney, and I know that that’s definitely something that the Sisemore Law Firm is all about, right. 

Justin – Yeah, I mean, you know, the goal obviously is to, to adhere to what a apparently is gonna be the, in the best interest of a child or children, and you can’t really determine that based on whether you’re a man or a woman, or a father or a mother, or what the [00:04:00] case may be. And certainly the goal should be, uh, you know, if, if you talk about I’m a kid’s rights attorney, what you’re really saying is we’re looking at the interest of the child. Will we make the determination of what to advocate? Um, I think that should always be the primary goal of every attorney and really set the expectations for the client as a result. And so I don’t like the notion, uh, of, of really putting the parents before the child when we’re looking at a standard, which requires the court to look at best interest. I think the, the only way we really look at that is the schedules, um, and what the, the kids would benefit as far as rights and duties with respect to education, medical rights, which parent has really been stepping up and, and taking those primary roles and, and a lot of times we see in custody cases, you know, The parties just want to fight about who has a superior, right? When they don’t really know who the doctor is or they don’t have information about the school, and they just step up and walk into a courtroom and say, I [00:05:00] want these rights. And you know, the first couple questions kind of knock ’em back on their backside by just saying, Hey, who’s, who’s your child’s teacher? Well, I don’t know. That’s not a very good look whenever you’re looking at trying to seek the right to make educational decisions or similarly with medical, I don’t know who the child’s doctor is or I haven’t been to doctor’s appointments or I don’t know much about my child’s medical history. It’s not a, again, a very good look when you walk into court with that kind of request, and you haven’t done any of those roles, and so it really makes it pretty easy for a fact finder to make the determination when you don’t know the information, who should be that primary role. By the contrary, you know, you get lawyers that prep their clients for these kind of questions and they just stop right at the, well, who’s the child’s teacher? Well, who’s the child’s doctor? Uh, and and they don’t really dive into the next question or the, the two layers deep in the onion, which is, okay, well, what was the last, at the last medical appointment, what was the. Doctor’s conclusions. Well, I wasn’t [00:06:00] there. Well, let’s talk about the one before that while I wasn’t there. And so you really have to look at scheduling and who’s been involved. Um, and, and I think that’s what courts really make a lot of their determination on. Um, together with the co-parenting ability of parties that make decisions. 

Mary – So you might have some fathers listening to this that’s like, you know, Hey, that’s great. You know, I have a better shot at getting a, a more preferential custody arrangement nowadays than I would’ve in the past. But you’ve helped more, you and your firm have helped more fathers get, you know, even primary or full custody in from your firm. Can you explain a little more about that and why that’s happening today?

Justin – Yeah, we see a lot of, I, I get a lot of requests about a 50/50 it seems like. Um, and I don’t like to stereotype again, but it seems like a lot of, uh, fathers that contact us are wanting this 50/50 arrangement. Sometimes it’s simply because they don’t wanna pay child support and they think that a 50/50 arrangement precludes that. In fact, the courts, uh, even in a 50/50 arrangement, will [00:07:00] often look at both parties income, um, and resources and expenses when they’re determining what that child support amount is gonna be. And so if a party is just seeking 50/50 because they’re trying to avoid child support, it’s pretty easy to flush out and so I, I’m very particular with a client when they say I want a 50/50. When we look at the expanded standard, which is roughly 46% of the time, I, I, I tend to go into the, well, what is the most beneficial time, uh, that you have for, um, your work schedule and your daily life with the child so that you can maximize that time? But, but what we’re seeing more and more now of is this dual role, this duality of role with dual working households, as we’ve described. Um, and even when you’re going through a divorce where you have one party who’s been the stay at home, uh, parent, mom, or dad you know, you see this situation where there’s a transitional moment where they have to go to work. And so we have to try to accommodate those schedules. And when you look at child support versus, which is statutory by the [00:08:00] way, for the most part. Uh, when you look at the offsetting, uh, costs that are involved with childcare cars, uh, education, uh, extracurriculars, what you see is parties really fighting against this child support but what they don’t realize is they’re taking on a big uh, level of expense with respect to raising a child. In fact, we just have a case that just came in two days ago where the other side actually filed for primary. Um, we acquiesced to it because the child’s 14 expressed a preference wanting to live with dad, and all of a sudden dad’s new wife has decided, wait a minute if we have this child a primary or a majority period of time, the expense is far offset and outweigh the child support. So you really have to look at you know, a cost benefit analysis, and I hate to ever say that when a child’s involved, but, but when you’re looking at the overall costs of of, of the family and best interest of the child, it sometimes isn’t always best to just stop that child support for a 50/50 arrangement it can be a lot more expensive [00:09:00] to raise kids, and you can also get in the way of the other party contributing. 

Mary – So let’s talk about some of the mistakes that fathers make that can jeopardize their ability to get a fav favorable custody arrangement. Can you talk a little bit about that, Justin? 

Justin – Yesterday a great example, I had a, a, a consult where, uh, a party had called me, happened to be the father, uh, called me because the mother had stepped out on the marriage and he wanted to really, it, it, it, you could feel that wanting to get a pound of flesh. And I certainly understand the complexity and, and difficulties that arise when adultery exists. Um, and specifically when there’s more egregious factors to that adultery where the child’s involved or there’s criminal aspects or various other natures, but. But what I see a lot, especially in these, these father’s rights cases, is, um, this need to win. And so when you have this need to win or you have this need to get a pound of flesh, what you see very often [00:10:00] is it’s not really focused and centered on the child whatsoever. It’s more about punishing the other party or winning, uh, the case in their mind. And so, um, that’s very easy to expose specifically when they have not done the things they need to, to get the res the relief that they’re requesting. And that’s exactly going back to the first couple questions you had, why we spend so much time educating the client on their expectations upfront. Um, so that they really have a fundamental understanding of what a, what a good argument, a sound legal argument is coupled with the facts going into a courtroom. We we’re big on timelines as a result of that. We’re big on looking at and compartmentalizing those rights and duties and breaking those out, um, into separate requests. You know, I hear all the time, I want sole custody, or I want, I want custody, and, and they, again, don’t know what that means. And so if you really break it down into rights and duties, you really focus on what each right, uh, entails, uh, [00:11:00] education, medical, the big ones, the residents, how far you’re gonna live apart, then you start looking at the possession schedule. You know, if you, if you’re not careful about some of those rights and duties and you do a 50/50 arrangement, but you give one party the right to make educational decisions and you, you open that geos restriction to a far area, um, with traffic and all the construction that’s going on, and, you know, it’s just not best for a kid to be in a car for an hour in the morning just so you can have your extra two days. You know, and, and, and that also is a financial impact. Um, It creates complications when the child is involved in activities. And so when you see one party not really thinking through the whole and they just go after this 50/50 arrangement, it’s very easy to ask simple questions. Like, well, if you look at a calendar, this is 46% of the time. So how is this. 4% going to really impact your child? Well, the answer is usually it doesn’t. And so then it really narrows the issue down to the [00:12:00] one party not wanting to pay the other party child support, which is very easy to expose. And then the courts are like, okay, well let’s, let’s just stick to this expanded standard, which is now presumed in the best interest, which is your first third and fifth, Thursday to Monday second and fourth Thursday overnights, uh, alternating holiday and summer schedule. And those days can be tweaked, uh, based on work schedule. So there’s a lot of ways even inside of the expanded, uh, that really accomplish the goal. And so when we’re talking about a father wanting equality or equal rights, or a mother wanting equality or equal rights, again, the court goes back to what the parties have been doing. Uh, they look at the overall structure of, of the environment, of the familial household, and then they go to the possession scheduled. Then they look at the finances. So it kind of goes in that order, in my opinion. And they all really fit together, uh, to create really what what is presumed to be in the best interest of the child. And keep in mind, the courts don’t ever, ever, ever get reversed on [00:13:00] appeal if they grant one party standard or which is now the expanded schedule that we just to spoke of, so there’s really no risk for the courts, and unless you have a really compelling argument, usually that starts on a temporary orders basis we don’t really see, unless the parties really work together this 50/50 arrangement in a final trial setting. Um, simply because the courts can’t get reversed on appeal. And so if they’ve got somebody going into a final trial setting where they’ve been primary the entire time, it’s really hard for the court to make the leap to go, all right, let’s go 50/50 and, and negate the child support. And also remember, parties lose their job. Um, they, they may not have the same ability to earn. So if you have a high wage earner versus a very low wage earner, that offset can be nominal. And then you’ve created this big war where you’ve spent tens of thousands of dollars to go fight for 300 bucks a month it doesn’t make a lot of sense. 

Andrea – And I would like to say also the 50/50 is oftentimes hard for the child. [00:14:00] The, the expanded standard. You live at one house and you go visit the other parent I had in my house. Two different arrangements. My stepkids came every other week, 50/50, and they’re, I have kind of like you up upload their entire life. They have to pack their stuff, they go to the other house, then they’re a whole week at the other house. They come back to our house and it was confusing for the kids, especially when they were little no friends. They have to make new friends. It’s often better to stay in one house and let the other parents see whoever that is.

Justin – Yeah. And and to that point, even when I was in Amicus, I mean I was been in amicus on over a hundred cases where I’d actually represent the, the, the child. Um, in the situation to show the court what was in the best interest. You know, in those, in those cases, we’d oftentimes try the week on, week off, and then we’d move to a 2-2-3, and then we’d move to a Wednesday in between but what we found was the breakup of the, the week schedule is, I, I is, is very healthy and beneficial and they’ve spent a lot of money, uh, in the government, uh, just trying to figure out what this best schedule is. There’s no [00:15:00] perfect solution, but to Andrea’s point what we see a lot with the week on, week off is it’s a big transition because they get into this habit and routine for six or seven days, and then they flip to the other and they’ve gotta remember to bring their stuff they’ve gotta remember their activities, the schedules and all that. And so I. It really requires a lot of cooperation and oftentimes when you see these 50/50, uh, requests you know, I say oftentimes, many of the times what you see is one party just not wanting to lose, uh, in their mind. And there’s no, there’s no winner or loser it’s, it’s just a matter of if you can’t reach an agreement, who makes the ultimate decision? And in 50/50 arrangements, uh, what we also often see is two parties wanting to say everything is subject to the agreement. And that’s what I call the Kumbaya order. And oftentimes they come back and have to spend way more money, uh, in the modification, taking back some of those rights where the burden of proof is higher Um, and so, you know, [00:16:00] sometimes just waving the flag and saying, this isn’t that big a deal. We don’t really argue about these issues. That is the best approach. But other times it’s important. If you have one party that’s really wielding the sword in, in, in usurping those rights, uh, to make sure that you do have a check and balance on that so sometimes we’ll see courts say, okay, well you have the education and you have the medical right, and, and the parties go, wait, I actually wanted the medical rights. So that, that’s why I really spend a lot of time, uh, in the upfront piece just figuring out what’s important to the parties. And if you’ve got somebody, for example, that’s moved seven times and you want to keep the child in a certain school and the education is important as a result of that, you know, you wanna, you wanna push for the educational right, the medical right, you may receive, but that child may be totally healthy and that’s not something that comes up very often so you really gotta dissect each of those issues with the client when you’re talking about custody and educate the client, in my opinion, on what those rights are. Obviously there’s more enumerated rights, but the big three, as I call ’em, the [00:17:00] residence, education and medical, seem to be the ones that, uh, people have the most disagreements and come back to our office, uh, a majority of the time on.

Andrea – And you, you guys do a great job in explaining those rights. And again, I always say, put yourself in the shoes of the kid. Would you want that for your child? Would you want to be in that situation? And many times, if you really think about it, the fight just makes no sense because if you were the child, you wouldn’t want to do what you asked the, the, the court to do for your child.

Justin – Yeah. And just to kind of touch on that, that point briefly too, what we see the courts try to do, uh, oftentimes is they’ll get home studies or they’ll get third parties involved if there’s a, if there’s a, a need for a tiebreaker scenario. And oftentimes what you can see is that some of those third parties that they bring into the equation, tend to kind of get their opinions set early and it’s very hard to undo that when you ask for all these third parties, uh, to get involved. And so, when you pawn it off on a counselor, you pawn it off on a doctor or you pawn it off on a, [00:18:00] a social worker. Uh, that’s doing the home study you know, you’re kind of stuck with, with, with some of that decision making so it’s really important before you ask for that, cuz oftentimes a court will granite that you really walk through what that would look like as well. Because when they have a third party, uh, saying that, Hey, I believe that it’s in the best interest for this party to receive this type of possession schedule or this type of rights or duties, um, you know, it’s, they’re, they’re presumed or deemed to be neutral, and it’s kind of hard to overcome that. So before you ask for those, uh, neutrals, especially when you’re looking at a 50/50, you really have to s similarly understand your strategy going into how you’re going to advocate that to that third party as well. 

Mary – So another thing that we should touch on too is, um, there are a lot of dads that give up before they even get to court or even get to an attorney’s office to find out what their options are and I know you’ve, you told us, uh, shared a story with us recently about a dad who just, you know, he’s [00:19:00] like, I’m just gonna let her have custody. And, and he and he, and essentially kind of got, I hate to use the word screwed, but he kind of got screwed in the situation. Can you share that story? I think that would be helpful for dads that really should know that they can fight for their rights.

Justin – Yeah. No, there’s, there’s no better verb than screwed in that situation. And at the end of the day, what you see is, You know, I, and I don’t know why this is the case, cuz you have these father’s rights advocates and then, uh, you have some dads that just go, you know, this isn’t really worth the fight. I’ve been doing the heavy lifting I’ve been doing majority of the time uh, with respect to possession and access. I’ve been doing most of the rights and duties with respect to taking ’em, the doctors and making school decisions. But, you know, I don’t wanna pay an attorney and, and go through any arguments, so I’ll just acquiesce and give her those rights. Or give him those rights. And what, what, what happens as a result is it locks you in to a higher burden of proof to tweak [00:20:00] that or modify that. So when you are those primary and when, when you make those primary decisions and you know it’s in the best interest for your kids after you’ve gone through this analysis. Uh, it’s absolutely critical to not give up and, and, and just kind of wave the white flag for interests of, you know, 5,000 bucks here or 10,000 bucks here and that’s not chump change. I, I get it. Um, but the, the modification piece is much more challenging. So getting it right in the beginning is critical and you know, it’s also very time sensitive. You know, if you go where you’ve been, the primary caretaker, uh, in that situation, this guy literally had the child 90% of the time, was paying child support you know, was making the decisions and then all of a sudden, one day mom didn’t like who he started dating and who he was getting married to. So she decided, Hey, I’m gonna rip the schedule and go back to the order. And by the way, uh, you know, I want to increase your child support. And so all the money that he had been paying, he can’t go back and get her to pay. [00:21:00] Because it preclude he’s, they’re precluded by the issue of the order. And so, you know, you can really get it, you can really get it both ways where you do get screwed in that situation. So I think it’s very important at the outset if you’ve been the primary to get that right. And then don’t, don’t just go and give up, um, those rights and duties and don’t just go give up the possession schedule cuz a party wants to make the switch and let that sit and marinate because what’ll happen is that will then create the, uh, very difficult, uh, task for the attorney to go switch it back to the way it’s been. Again, everything is time sensitive. Everything is real time. So they look at the circumstances as they stand, and in an initial case, uh, the time to strike is when you’ve been doing these things not waiting until she gets mad at you or he gets mad at you and they flip the schedule back and then come say, well, in 2021, uh, I was the primary for that whole year, so now I want 50/50. No. Go at 2021 and get after it and take a loan out. There’s other resources out [00:22:00] there, uh, that, that can help parties if you don’t have the financial resources to hire an attorney, you can literally Google it. Uh, the ABA American Bar Association has some resources available, uh, to borrow money for these cases and do those kinds of things. And when you weigh the cost of the child support, when you weigh the cost of best interest of the child, When you waive the overall cost of the ability to file modifications, um, you know, and you sit down with an ethical attorney that’s gonna say, Hey, hold them, or fold them and, you know, it’s just, it’s just a good thing to do that, uh, real time when the, when the, um, when the iron’s hot, if you will. 

Andrea – Now. I would also like to add, it’s also important when you’re not married and you have a child and you just live together, that you still get orders in place cuz you might break up and then we have those calls all the time. Dad’s calling and said, mom is not allowing me to see the child at all anymore. The child is two or three and we were living together before now Mommy doesn’t let me see the child anymore. And you need an order early on to set there to set the rules and [00:23:00] regulations for seeing your child. Correct. As a father. 

Justin – Yeah. And you know, another thing I see quite a bit too is parties just go, well, I think I can do this myself for a little bit, and then if I am, I’m not doing a good job, I’ll go hire a lawyer. And granted, I tell every client this, we have 350 clients that that will fight about the weather sometimes so it’s not a matter of a sales pitch here. This is not a matter of getting a case, it’s a matter of sitting down with an attorney and doing a consult. At very minimum to see whether there are issues that you can handle on your own. I tell clients all the time, Hey, you don’t need us. Uh, and it’s hard because they pay a couple hundred bucks for a consult fee and then, you know, they, they, we end up saying, Hey, we’re not the right fit right now, or You don’t need us right now if a party doesn’t have any assets and y’all are reaching agreements on everything, you don’t need our fire power. But by the same token, if you are in a situation where you think you can start this process and you don’t know you don’t do any of your homework, you don’t have your schedules in order, you don’t know how to present evidence it’s very challenging and [00:24:00] it’s even more challenging to undo those temporary orders. And those temporary orders lead into the mediation. They’re the leverage points. So each step of the case is critical, and I think that the temporary orders are very important to make sure that you have the correct pieces of the puzzle together Uh, for leverage going into mediation. And so don’t skip the, don’t skip, you know, out on this just because you’re trying to save a buck or two here, uh, because these ha the, each step of this case has a long lasting effect. And again, once you get temporary orders, very hard to undo. Once you get a final order very hard to modify burden of proof change. Courts don’t like parties coming back over and over. Some courts, uh, in jurisdictions, in surrounding counties won’t even let you set another hearing unless there’s some type of extraordinary circumstances. So don’t think that just because it says temporary orders oh, I can just go in there and I’ve, I’ve walked in there one day and I’ve seen some parties stand up and just kind of tell their piece. When you get a good lawyer against you, uh, you’ll know the, the difference very quickly between the parties that just [00:25:00] stand up in a courtroom and, and talk about their lives versus somebody who shuts down on the q and a session and pre precludes evidence from being entered into a courtroom.

Mary – I know there are a lot of fathers out there that have lost custody of their children and for very good reasons. But. They come to the realization they need to clean up their lives, they need to be a good dad, and they need to step up. So can you talk a little bit about the steps that they can take potentially to get more access, um, and eventually more, uh, visitation and conservatorship potentially?

Justin – Yeah. Step one of that obviously is the co-parenting nature. I mean, you, you gotta start with the source. I, I, I have a lot of very good parents that will offer full boat child support for 50/50 or offer some extracurricular or payment of private school, so then it doesn’t become about the money. And you know what, I’ve seen a lot of, of, of effective co-parenting that really makes a lot of sense is when you ask the [00:26:00] other side, Hey, listen, you know, what days are best for you? What, what, what is your schedule? You’re, you’ve gotta keep in mind when parties remarry and they have other kids involved, there’s a, when the dust settles and the the, the wind, I always use the sail analogy when the sail goes down and the dust settles. And the wind’s just not really blowing the boat any direction what you see there is oftentimes parties just go, man, this schedule doesn’t make any sense for our lives. And so they go off script and then they don’t get orders. So, uh, I think it’s really important a, to sit down, uh, or try to have a conversation with the other side to see what days are best for them in their schedule and put them in ahead of you. Uh, that tends to neutralize the, um, nature that we’re gonna be acrimonious, that we’re gonna go have some big war. So I, I like to start with the co-parenting nature first. Hey, what schools do you like? Tell me your thoughts on this. Why, uh, you know, how can I, how can I better understand, uh, your position on this? Or [00:27:00] what do you do disciplinary wise in your house? How do I stop this cell phone use or what are you doing there that’s effective? You’re just asking these open-ended questions and that’s a very neutralizing blow. That’s the, that’s the first step. And oftentimes we’ll put that in an email form so that you can show that you’re trying to cooperate and sometimes of course you get the response pound sand, you know, whatever the case may be. Um, which again is very effective evidence to show a lack of co-parenting. So the other thing that, uh, is very big, is making sure that you keep a running schedule of what you’ve been doing. Um, you know, you might go two or three years before you come back to a modification and you can’t remember all the stuff that’s happened in the last couple years and so I don’t like, um, parties keeping, you know, tabs on every single thing they do and recording, uh, all the interactions and trying to build a case, if you will. Uh, especially on modifications. Uh, but I do encourage clients to keep a kind of a running timeline of significant events that occur, um, to show what they’ve been doing and also to, [00:28:00] to show, uh, what the facts are and, and gather any evidence, real time that you need text messages, photographs, uh, you know, those things have a tendency to disappear over time and you forget about ’em. So, um, you know, you’re, you’re in a custody case effectively until the child’s 18th birthday or the child graduates high school, whichever’s latter unless the child has a disability so, um, keeping a running timeline is very effective to. To bring that into a lawyer’s office. It cuts down on all the emails and all the craziness. When a client brings me in, I have a box of all this stuff, right? I’m like, fantastic. Get it in timeline, form for me. Well, I have a box of all this stuff. Fantastic. Get in timeline, right? And so the key in my opinion is getting everything organized in the client’s mind and getting it simplified so that you can present it to a court. Um, it also really helps in that initial consultation when I see that a client’s very organized with their timeline and I know that their focus is on a specific issue. Um, it really helps me drill down in that short [00:29:00] period of time that we have together to figure out what the best, uh, legal strategy is. And so I think that’s, that’s the key. And then the other thing that’s really important, Um, is just making sure that you remember all of your communications on Facebook, social media, communications via text message, uh, third parties, all that stuff it can and will be used in the courtroom. Okay. So, um, you know, I tell all clients try to act as best as you can like Jesus, because it’s really hard to argue with Jesus. Um, You know, but if you’re the type that thinks that you’re gonna win your case, you’re gonna step on the other party’s toes. You’re gonna send these defamatory comments out there, and you’re going to not co-parent, uh, you don’t do very well, even if you’ve had these primary roles. Um, you know, courts don’t like to re reward bad behavior and co-parenting and best interests as always. Um, takes precedence over anything else. So just try to do the do right rule. Um, try to make sure that you’ve got, uh, all of your summaries and everything organized, and then really sit down in a strategic direction with open ears, [00:30:00] not your agenda and, um, try your best also too, to not have. Uh, your spouse or your girlfriend or your sister who has given you all of her opinions, um, you know, weigh in on the, the consult. Um, I’ve seen that a lot lately where it’s, you know, I’ll see a spouse call me and they’re trying to run the consult. Well, well, he doesn’t, he doesn’t remember all this, let me tell you. Well, they don’t, they don’t understand when you get into a courtroom, they have to say it. So if I can’t have those communications at the outset, I know very well that it’s usually a third party pushing the agenda, and that is the last thing the courts wanna ever, uh, reward is a third party over a biological parent of a child.

Mary – So I, we’re getting close to wrapping up here. Do you guys have any final comments? Andrea, I know you hear from a lot of dads that call in with questions about custody and visitation. Any, anything else that you wanted to add on that? 

Andrea – Well, like I said earlier, I think it’s, I, it’s important that you get your, your stuff in order [00:31:00] and, and have a consultation early on when you were the father of a child, even if you’re not married or girlfriend had a baby, it’s still important early on cuz years later when they deny access, it’s got much harder and then for mom’s and dads out there, both parents are important in the kid’s life. So all this fighting and father’s rights and all that stuff, the father needs to be in a life of the child, just like the mother needs to be. And we have people calling in which is oftentimes moms dad said, I once so custody cuz I’ve been doing everything and he’s doing this and he’s doing that. Guess what? He’s still the father of your child. And he’s important. And especially when the kids are little, as we said, many times they identify themselves through mom and dad. So both should be in the kid’s life unless they are danger to the child. but otherwise, they both need to be involved. So don’t try to take that away from a child. Both parents are important. 

Mary – Any final thoughts, Justin? 

Justin – No, no. I think we’ve hit it on the head and I, I do, I do think it’s important. Um, When you are, um, debating on whether to, [00:32:00] um, move forward, especially with a young child, um, you know, I don’t want to, the child was just born. I don’t want to get in involved in, uh, litigation or whatever. Uh, to your point, uh, Patrice is what we see a lot of is the waiting game. And that just creates a lot of animosity when you don’t have a roadmap. So get a roadmap. It’s worth it. Sit down, at least have a consult at very minimum, uh, with at least one attorney. Uh, get the right fit, get the right feel, and just just understand what all these, uh, orders entail. You know, I get clients all the time that even after I’ve explained the rights and duties multiple times with our teams, They get this final order and it’s 35 pages and they don’t know what all it says. So make sure when you get the order or when you’re looking at these documents that you really understand what you’re supposed to do and not do with respect to the orders, uh, and try to adhere to those orders. It keeps a, it keeps a very balanced schedule. Um, and if you’re gonna tweak those orders and you’re gonna exercise self-help, uh, or you’re [00:33:00] not gonna, you’re not gonna follow court orders. Um, make sure that you document that. Um, so that it, that it, it, it gives a clear guide point, um, as to what y’all’s intent was and try to get back to the script as quickly as possible or go consultant attorney about a modification. Um, I can’t stress that enough. I see it all the time where parties, uh, let the other party take the kid for different days or summer or school or whatever, uh, or they wait to file and then all of a sudden, Uh, you know, mom moves off to California and they’re like, what do I do and I’m like, well, uh, you need to pack up your, your suitcase, your plane ticket cuz you’re going to California to litigate this case when it could have been litigated and resolved here and you could have had a lot tighter orders with respect to where the child lives. Because this overstate lines is very challenging. Uh, many of the states have very different requirements. Texas is actually very considerate of possession and access rights and duties and some of the other states. Um, family law is not as specific, uh, as it is in Texas, so it’s really [00:34:00] important to, with respect to timelines, to, to, to knock that out. When, when the, when the time’s right.

Mary – All right, well, if you’d like to contact the Sisemore Law Firm, you can call us at (817) 336-4444 or visit lawyerdfw.com. We also invite you to follow the podcast and share it with your friends and anybody who might find it helpful. Thanks again for listening and have a great day. 

Announcer – Thank you for listening to In Your Best Interest with Texas Divorce Attorney and entrepreneur, Justin Sisemore. The content presented here is provided for information only. And should not be construed as legal, tax, or financial advice. Click the follow button to be notified when new episodes become available.