Child custody disputes are highly stressful. If handled improperly, you could lose custody rights that you are entitled to.
Our dedicated family law attorneys can stand by your side, shouldering the burden and ensuring that your child's best interests are met.
At The Family Law Firm of Donna J. Smiedt in Arlington, our team of dedicated professionals works with you to achieve an optimal resolution.
Don't fight alone. Contact The Family Law Firm of Donna J. Smiedt Today
Navigating the legal waters of a child custody case can be difficult and stressful. By hiring a lawyer, you can rest easier knowing our law firm will handle the complexities of your case and guide you through this difficult time in your life. Donna J. Smiedt has spent over 35 years in practice and has been a board-certified family law attorney since 1991. We pride ourselves on creating a relaxing atmosphere in our office and have therapy dogs on location to give you comfort. Call us today or request a consultation online.
Serving Arlington, Southlake, Westover Hills,
and the Greater DFW Area
The Benefits of Working With a Child Custody Attorney
Peace of Mind
Family law is complicated, especially issues of custody. You may find yourself doing hours and hours of internet research but still not be confident that you have a full grasp of the legal situation. When you hire a child custody lawyer, you may be able to sleep better at night. Working with an attorney ensures that every aspect of the case is being handled properly.
Someone without formal legal training will almost certainly make some kind of error, whether on paperwork or in the courtroom. These mistakes can lead to frustrating and stressful delays in the dispute being resolved. In some cases, this can even affect your final outcome. For the most efficient possible resolution, enlist a child custody attorney.
Protection of Your Rights
The other parent might try to compromise your access to your child, especially if he or she has their own legal representation. To avoid receiving anything less than your full legal custody rights, it's important to have a lawyer by your side.
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What Influences A Judge's Custody Decision?
While Texas statutes and prior case law provide guidance for custody choices, judges still have wide discretion in determining conservatorship. If both parents are made conservators, the judge typically names one parent the primary joint managing conservator (the “custodial parent”). The custodial parent is the one that has the right to determine where the child lives and receives child support. All other decisions are typically made by both parents, unless otherwise spelled out in the conservatorship.
The child custody lawyers at The Family Law Firm of Donna J. Smiedt are familiar with what judges use to determine conservatorship and who is the custodial parent. We work closely with you, collecting evidence that will help persuade a judge that selecting you as the custodial parent will be in your child's best interests.
Aspects a judge typically considers include:
- The ability of a parent to give first priority to the welfare of the child
- Whether a parent can encourage and accept a healthy relationship with the other parent
- How much a parent participated in a child's care before the split
- Whether the physical, psychological, and emotional needs of the child benefit from a joint managing conservatorship
- Incidences of neglect, abuse, and alcohol or drug dependency
- The distance between the parents' homes
- Each parents' financial stability
- If the child is 12 or older, the judge may consider the child's preference on deciding where they prefer to live
- Any other relevant factors
Why Hire Donna J. Smiedt?
Whether you are working out the details of a recent divorce or remediating a previous child custody agreement, Donna J. Smiedt and her associate, Desaray R. Muma, want to help you reach a just and fair arrangement that meets the best interests of your child. All of our attorneys frequently handle child custody disputes and care deeply about the families they assist through these difficult times.
Donna J. Smiedt has been a Board Certified Family Law Attorney - Texas Board of Legal Specialization since 1991. She has practiced law in the Arlington area for more than 30 years, and in that time has built a respected family law practice.
What Sets Us Apart ...
Unlike some other family lawyers, The Family Law Firm of Donna J. Smiedt is committed to the emotional well-being of our clients. In our minds, a "win" doesn't really count if parents and children come away from a custody dispute with traumatic memories and emotional scars. We take pride in handling every custody case as quickly, amicably, and fairly as possible.
Everyone at Ms. Smiedt's office strives to provide a relaxing, stress-free atmosphere. We love introducing clients to our office divorce therapy dog, Baxter. If you are looking for child custody lawyers who will handle your situation kindly while seeking a just resolution, look no further than The Family Law Firm of Donna J. Smiedt.
"We hired Donna Smiedt to handle a very contentious child custody case in 2010. From the day we signed on to have Donna represent us we have received excellent representation and results. Donna has represented us well and listened to all of our needs and requests. Donna was professional and reassured us that our case would be taken care of. My wife and I can not say enough good things about Donna and her personal attention to a stressful matter. We highly recommend to anyone going through a divorce or considering divorce. You won't find a better family attorney than Donna Smiedt." Ed McKiernan
Call Us Today... For Answers to Your Custody Questions
Without an attorney, the best interests of your child may be in jeopardy. Reach out today to make certain that your rights–and your child's future–are protected while going through a divorce or informal separation.
The Family Law Firm of Donna J. Smiedt in Arlington, TX, can help you reach a custody solution that serves your child's best interests.
Schedule a legal consultation by contacting us online or by calling our office at:
Avoid the Courtroom:
Custody Agreements through Mediation
There is an alternative to lengthy and confusing custody disputes handled by the court. Mediation with Donna J. Smiedt and her team allows parents to reach a custody agreement amicably and quicker than traditional litigation, especially if the parents are on good terms. In addition, mediation is usually much cheaper than going through the courts.
During mediation, the two parents, their attorneys (if they have them), and a mediator meet in a neutral location to negotiate a custody agreement. The lawyers at Donna J. Smiedt's firm can work as a parent's attorney or as a mediator. These meetings offer opportunities for parents and their representation to work out a custody plan that meets their child's best interests.
Child Custody in Texas: Quick Facts
Donna J. Smiedt and her associates are proud members of the Tarrant County legal community and have served clients from Arlington, Southlake, Westover Hills, and the greater DFW area for decades. Before beginning your child custody negotiation, here are some facts about child custody in Texas you may find useful:
- In Texas, child custody is legally referred to as "conservatorship."
- The default position of Texas is to name the separated or divorced parents joint managing conservators, but the well-being of the child is always the court's top priority. To argue for a court-ordered arrangement other than joint managing conservatorship, the assistance of a child custody lawyer is particularly valuable.
- Joint managing conservatorship is not the same as shared custody. In typical joint managing conservatorship arrangements, one parent has primary physical custody of the child while the other parent has visitation rights (possession and access). Both parents have equal say in decision-making regarding the child, such as education, religious upbringing, extracurricular activities, etc.
- Judges in Texas are required to consider evidence of domestic abuse when handling a custody case.
- In some circumstances, especially those involving parental neglect, third parties can sue for custody of the child. Donna J. Smiedt and her team also assist third parties, especially grandparents, with custody cases.
Do You Have a Complex Case?
We Specialize in Difficult Child Custody Cases
Her familiarity with the state child custody laws, the Texas legal system, and local judges are a boon when it comes to presenting your case to the court. In addition to crafting a sound legal strategy, The Family Law Firm of Donna J. Smiedt also makes a point of creating a calming environment that will help you make thoughtful decisions.
If you have questions about your next steps, leave us a message online or request a consultation by phone:
"I’ve hired Donna and her team for multiple child custody cases. She’s been nothing but kind, caring, honest, and professional during these extremely emotional and stressful times in my life. She always makes me feel like I’m her only client, and puts me at ease with her abilities and knowledge of the law. She’s won every case for me and I don’t know what I would have done without her and excellent team of paralegals and attorneys. She definitely gets the job done and more!! I highly recommend her for any family law issues." Lindsey Hogue
When to Hire a Child Custody Attorney
If you and your spouse share children and are divorcing, the most important agreement that will be reached is the child custody agreement. Getting the custody arrangement right the first time can save serious headaches and heartaches in the future. Having an attorney's assistance is especially important if you plan on pursuing an arrangement other than Texas's default custody decision (joint managing conservatorship).
Custody disputes become even more complicated when the two parents live in different states. Whether the parents lived in different states at the time of separation or one moved away after, the legal maze created by such a situation is difficult to navigate. Donna J. Smiedt and her team can handle these situations and will work with you to reach a beneficial solution.
Previous conservatorship agreements may require modification if the circumstances of the parents or children change. Possible changes include one parent remarrying, a change in employment status, a medical health issue, or unexpected financial hardship. In these situations, your custody agreement may no longer serve the best interests of your child. A child custody lawyer can help amend it.
If you are concerned that the behavior of your co-parent is irresponsible, illegal, or harmful to your child in any way (especially in the case of abuse), a child custody attorney can help you gain primary or even full physical custody of your child. The family court system in Texas takes child abuse very seriously. A lawyer can help you quickly get your child to safety–immediately and in the long-term.
Let Us Help You...
The Family Law Firm of Donna J. Smiedt wants to help you find the best situation for your child. Whether you are outlining your first child custody arrangement or need to amend an existing one, let us make the situation a little easier for you.
If you live in Arlington, Southlake, or Westover Hills, TX, we encourage you to contact us online or schedule a consultation by calling:
"Professional and Helpful"
"Donna represented me with my divorce and child custody case. She was always professional and helpful. I never felt like she was judging me and I appreciated it immensely. Her knowledge of the law and the family court system was very good. Her office staff have always been professional and helpful too." Ross Dunk
Child Custody and Military Parents
Custodial Parents Deploying for Military Service
If you are the custodial parent and deploying for military service, you may ask the courts to designate another person as the custodian while you are deployed. This can be the non-custodial parent, a grandparent, a close friend, or another relative, depending on your situation. If the courts determine the non-custodial parent is not fit to take on the role of the custodial parent, or if the person you designate is deemed unfit, the courts may appoint someone for you.
Non-Custodial Military Parent and Visitation
If you are the non-custodial parent and deploying for military service, you may ask the courts to designate another parent to fulfill your visitation time. You may also ask the courts to designate make-up visitation times for when you return from your deployment or temporary military duty. This will be determined based on the best interests of the child. This request may be made to the courts up to 90 days following the end of your deployment or temporary military duty.
Child Custody in Texas: Glossary of Terms
- Conservatorship: The legal term for "custody" in Texas, describing your court-ordered relationship with your child.
- Joint Managing Conservator: When two parents are named joint managing conservators, the child primarily resides with one parent while the other parent has visitation rights. Both parents have equal say in major decisions.
- Custodial Parent: The parent with whom the child lives in the case of a joint managing conservatorship.
- Non-Custodial Parent: The parent who has visitation rights but with whom the child does not primarily live.
- Sole Managing Conservator: If a parent (or even a non-parent) is named sole managing conservator, they have exclusive decision-making rights over the child.
- Possessory Conservator: If one parent is a sole managing conservator, then the other parent may be a possessory conservator, who can still enjoy a relationship with the child but does not have the final say in decision-making for the child.
- Custody Order: A court order from a Texas state judge that declares where the child will live, who has decision-making power for the child, who has visitation rights, and other specifics of the custody arrangement.
- Visitation: The court-ordered plan that outlines when a non-custodial parent can spend time with their child.
- Child Support: Court-ordered payments made by the non-custodial parent to the custodial parent to assist in raising the child.
"Donna Is a Very Caring Person."
"Donna has represented my son in a child custody case and my wife and I in a grandparents custody case and she has done a masterful job. I don't know where my grandchildren would be without Donna. She has given them a chance to have a much better life and a chance to be loved and grow into well rounded adults. Donna is a very caring person that really looks out for the benefit of children and her clients." Jerry Johnston