Child Custody Decisions – What Judges Look at

Live at Five’s family attorney Sonya Coffman answers questions submitted by KFDM News viewers. These questions include:

  • What do judges look at when determining custody?
  • Why are parenting classes mandatory?
  • Why aren’t fathers generally awarded custody?
  • Can a grandparent be granted visitation?
  • Who gets custody of children if both parents pass away without a will?


For divorcing parents issues of custody are front and center. What do you judges look at in making decisions about child custody? Live at Five's family attorney Sonya Coffman joins us now with the answer to that question plus answers to your questions and Sonya we've got lots of questions but first, child custody. What do judges look at? I think lately Kelly, the thing I'm hearing from our judges in Southeast Texas is, they are tired of bickering among divorcing parents and what comes as a surprise to some people, I don't think the judges care so much about who's right, who's wrong in the bickering or who started it but rather he will work to minimize the conflict for that bickering causes on the children. So, there lots of things that divorcing parents need to keep in mind both because he helps there's custody case and also because it's best for their children in a divorce situation. Because regardless of who's right and who's wrong the child is the one suffers. Absolutely they internalize the conflict and we know that children want both parents involved in their lives so communicating about events involving the children, not using the children as spies on the other parent, not using the children as messengers in the middle of a divorce. These are all things that help to minimize that conflict. All right, let's get our onto some of our questions. Uh, this person says, I'm getting a divorce and I want to know why do I have to take a parenting class before my divorce can be final if we don't have an issue raising our two year old in separate homes? Well its the local rule in Jefferson County that divorcing parents need to take that class and it's only a four hour class so I say go into it with an open mind and probably you'll learn something. That's not the rule generally in Orange and Hardin Counties, however. Ok, uh... why is it when a couple gets divorced, why is the dad the one that seems to get the bad end of the stick? Well, that comes up a lot. People still want to know how much natural bias there is in favor of mothers and I think that it's a lot better than it used to be and I think it varies sometimes from court to court but we win custody cases all the time for dads, so it depends on the facts. Ok. I have a question. What if your grandson as with his dad's sister living with her now and she won't take your calls or texts from me. What can I do? The dad had CPS custody but let his sister take him cause he couldn't afford to care from, for him. Now, she won't let me see him. Wow, that's basically a question that grandparents ask often is, can I get visitation with my grandchild. And in Texas that's a very hard thing to do as long as you're child has either actual or legal rights to see their child then the court is not likely to allow the grandparents to file suit for visitation. If you have children under the age of eighteen and you and your spouse die at the same time you get your children? Do they go to foster care, do the grandparents or other another living relative get them and there's no will? Well, a will would not be outcome determinative the will would be some guidance to the court on who the parents wanted to have to raise the children in the event both parents die, but the court conducts the custody hearing just like any other case and determines what's in the best interest of the children, so all of these people who have the children would come before the court the court would make the decision