Texas is one of the states leading the way in redefining what is in the best interest of the child when it comes to child custody, visitation and parenting time. Like many parents, especially fathers, fighting for equal time with their children has been a long time coming. While other states' lawmakers fight over small percentages, Texas has already passed a law allowing non-custodial parents the right to at least 40 percent of parenting time with their children.
The Texas Supreme Court will decide whether or not a mediated custody agreement between parents should be sanctioned, even if a judge believes it is not in the best interest of the child. Mediation for divorcing couples is cheaper, faster and less stressful for all parties involved. Therefore, state law gives our family court judges very little discretion on mediated settlements. The agreements are usually entered into court documents during routine hearings without any objections.
We always hear that custody and visitation decisions are supposedly made in the "best interests" of the child. So, why not let our children tell us what their interests are? Instead of having doctors and psychologists tell the Harris County Family Court what is best for our children during your divorce, visitation or custody dispute, why not just ask your kids? What if we also revisited the custody settlement or visitation schedule every two years? As your child ages, so will his or her priorities, friends, school activities and interests.
The U.S. Government Accountability Office recently released some disturbing findings that were evidenced right here in Houston: children in the Texas foster care system are more likely to be prescribed psychotropic drugs than in any other state. A local family is heartbroken after their daughter's health declined while in the custody of Child Protective Services.
Sometimes, if a military parent is deployed, or even has a chance of being deployed, it can be enough to sway a judge's opinion of what is in the best interest of a child when determining custody arrangements and parenting plans.