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Fathers for Equal Rights (FER) has compiled a list of those things your attorney should be working toward in your divorce or modification. Those items with an asterisk (* ) beside them are MUST-HAVE items. This is not to say that other considerations are not important, but gaining those with an asterisk by them is of utmost importance. WARNING: This is simply a checklist and does not cover all of the issues of your divorce or court action. For additional information and explanations, please obtain the FER Report on the subject covered. Call or come by our offices for further assistance.

Joint Managing Conservatorship: This means you will still be a 'managing conservator' after the divorce. (See §153.131 of the Texas Family Code.) This is allowed even though she does not agree. Try to avoid the designation of a 'primary residence' for the children, but if the Court is so inclined, ask that it be your residence.

Establish the county of residence (domicile) of the child(ren). Do not allow either parent to have the right to decide 'domicile'. This can be written in simple language along the lines of, 'The county of residence of the child of XXX county until altered by further order of the court.' This language is referred to repeatedly in the Family Code.

If you have 'visitation' you must ask for the right to pick up the child(ren) at school on Friday and return them to school on Monday. This is your right under §153.317 of the Texas Family Code. If your job does not permit this, then you can choose to pick them up at day care or elsewhere after school school, their mother will be working also and will face the same problem. You should also have the right to pick them up at school on Wednesdays. You should try to gain the right to keep them overnight on Wednesday. Ask for the right to phone them at least 3 days a week: Specify the time and days. This is not provided for in the code but you have the right to request it.

Insist on 'Pick-up , Pick-up' for exchanges that do not occur at school or day care. This simply means that you ho to her house to pick up the child(ren) when a neutral site is not possible and she comes to your house to retrieve them at the end of your possession period. Do NOT agree to pick the kids up at her house and return them there. §153.316(1)(3A).

If the court orders a social study, have your attorney ask that it be performed according to the minimum guidelines established by the Texas Department of Human Services (TDHS) Note: TDHS will not perform the study. They only set the standards.

Mediation should be a part of every divorce agreement, even if you do not receive joint managing conservatorship. The name of a specific mediation center should be incorporated into your petition/decree with the stipulation that the parties (you and your ex-) will try to solve differences there before litigating the matter. A mediation provision is a must where you and your ex- share responsibilities as allowed under a joint conservatorship agreement. Refer to §153.0071 and §102.0085 of the Family Code for specific language.

If you pay child support and have lost your job or are making less money than you were when the support amount was set by the court, you must IMMEDIATELY go to the Attorney General or your private attorney and ask that your order be modified to reflect your present ability to pay. Your old rate will continue until you do so and it cannot be adjusted retroactively. You may ask the court to establish and rearrange payment for any accrued support due obligee. Your local FER chapter can help you with this. Contact your local chapter immediately.

Before the Trial


  1. Admit to yourself that you have problem in obtaining a just divorce.
  2. Close out joint accounts and cancel credit cards and charge accounts.
  3. Make sure that your wife and her attorney cannot get your financial records, move them to the office.
  4. Try for an out-of-court reasonable settlement.
  5. Contact and join a Father Rights Organizations and ask their advice about choosing an attorney.
  6. Determine what the lawyer fees will be before you hire him or her.
  7. If you have children, make sure that they understand that you are not divorcing them.
  8. Keeps a written record of all events pertinent to the divorce: Names, dates, etc.
  9. Rent a P.O. box for all your mail that you want to keep private.
  10. Ask yourself which parent would be best for the children.
  11. Tone down your life-style during the divorce process.
  12. Learn about your case and your judge so that you can ''help'' your lawyer do a better job for you in court.


  1. Move out of the house unless ordered to do so by the court.
  2. Forget that you, too, have Constitutional rights.
  3. Tell your children horror stories about your ex-spouse. There is no need to drag them through the muck.
  4. Use your spouse attorney to save money. You will only hurt yourself.
  5. Use a lawyer who is negative about your case and the opportunity for Fathers gaining custody.
  6. Leave all of your friends behind and become a hermit.
  7. Discuss any proposed settlement with your wife's lawyer unless your lawyer is also present.
  8. Avoid your children if you move out of the house.
  9. Take your children with you unless you have planned in advance.
  10. Rely solely upon psychologist or expert witnesses to win your case.
  11. Buy a new car, boat, etc., or move in with a single woman.
  12. Voluntarily pay for anything not in the court order. This will not win you any ''points''.

During the trial


  1. Attend ALL depositions, court sessions, etc. even if your attorney tells you there is no need to come.
  2. Obtain and keep ALL originals with copies going to your lawyer.
  3. Get specific Visitation, if you do not get custody.
  4. Claim tax exemption on the children that you are supporting.
  5. Keep tabs on your and your wife's attorney fees and other costs.
  6. Take a reasonable settlement at any point during the process.
  7. Fight to keep the kids out of court and out of the middle.


  1. Sign any decree or waver unless and until you understand it fully and consult with your attorney.
  2. Be afraid to change lawyers if your interests are not being met.
  3. Panic if you lose temporary custody as is usually the fate of fathers.
  4. Agree to alimony unless there are exceptional circumstances.
  5. Agree to Child Support based solely on your income. You both owe support.
  6. Agree to ALL medical bills without any strings attached.
  7. Be neglectful of wills, trusts and insurance; change the benefactors, if you are not forbidden to by Court order.

After the Trial


  1. Fulfill your visitation rights and see your children regularly.
  2. Obey the divorce order, even if your former spouse violates it.
  3. Get specific Visitation, if you do not get custody.
  4. Avoid your ex-spouse as much as possible; you cannot have her back.
  5. Fight off sentimentality when dealing with your children.


  1. Review all the details of the decree with your children.
  2. Be afraid to socialize, you are not a leper, you are just divorced.
  3. Be overly possessive of your children, they need adjustment time.
  4. Agonize over mistakes during the trial, forgive yourself.
  5. Confront your ex-wife or in-laws, do come to a working understanding.

I found Fathers For Equal Rights through my church. Fathers For Equal Rights empowered me to do the right thing for my son through critical knowledge, and strategic access to affordable legal assistance.
  -- David A. - Dallas, TX

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