Facing Divorce? Tips from the Trenches – Practical and Emotional Aspects of Child Custody: A Litigator’s Perspective

By: Manjula Shaw, CFP®, CDFA®

“Tips from the Trenches” is a series of articles based on conversations with professionals who work with individuals facing or considering the prospect of divorce. Watch this space for conversations with professionals in Family and collaborative law, Forensic-Certified Public Accountants, Mediators, Marriage Counselors, Family Court Judges, and Valuation Specialists.

Manjula Shaw is a Certified Financial Planner (CFP®) and an Asst. Vice President at Tanglewood Legacy Advisors. As a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst (CDFA®), Manjula specializes in helping individuals navigate the financial complexities of late-stage divorce, including asset division, alimony, and child support.

Manjula’s conversation is with Patricia Carter, a partner at Carter Morris, a Houston-based law firm. She is a board-certified Family Lawyer with over 24 years of dedicated Family Law litigation experience.

In Texas, family law and child custody matters are governed by complex rules and regulations. For parents navigating divorce or separation, understanding these legal frameworks is crucial. However, the process can feel overwhelming, given the intricacies of Texas law and the emotional challenges involved.

My conversation with Patricia offers practical guidance on family law and child custody in Texas based on her experience as a practitioner of Family Law specializing in child custody litigation. The aim is to provide actionable advice for parents navigating the legal system, whether you seek to understand your rights, establish custody arrangements, or modify existing orders.

What are some common reasons a child custody case might end up in court?

    • Disagreement Between Parents: Parents may have different ideas about what custody arrangement is in their child’s best They may not be able to reach a compromise through negotiation or mediation, leading to the need for court intervention.
    • Complex or Contested Issues: Child custody cases can become complex and contentious, especially if there are significant disagreements between parents regarding custody, visitation schedules, or other related issues such as relocation or parental fitness.
    • Concerns about Child’s Safety or Well-being: If one parent has concerns about the safety or well-being of the child in the care of the other parent, they may seek court intervention to address these concerns and ensure the child’s best interests are protected.
    • Violation of Existing Custody Order: If one parent violates an existing custody order or refuses to comply with agreed-upon custody arrangements, the other parent may seek court intervention to enforce the custody order and hold the non-compliant parent accountable.
    • Emergency Situations: In some cases, such as instances of domestic violence or child abuse, a parent may seek emergency relief from the court to protect the child from immediate harm or danger.


Patricia says, “In family law, you are truly in the trenches.” Patricia has had a front-row seat to the gritty reality of dealing with legal matters that profoundly affect families. Nowhere is this truer than in Texas, where the complexities of family law can turn the process of child custody disputes into an emotional battlefield. Patricia calls the mindset “trauma brain.”

How do you navigate the emotional trauma of a custody battle?

    • Prioritize Your Child: Always remember your child’s best Focus on what’s best for them, rather than getting caught up in the drama.
    • Find Support: Lean on friends, family, or a therapist for emotional Having someone to talk to can help you cope with stress.
    • Stay Calm: Try to remain calm and composed, especially when dealing with your co-parent. Avoid arguments or confrontations that could make things worse.
    • Take Care of Yourself: Make time for self-care activities that help you relax and de-stress. Exercise, hobbies, or spending time with loved ones can help.
    • Set Boundaries: Establish clear boundaries with your co-parent to protect your emotional well-being. Keep communication focused on your child and avoid unnecessary conflicts.
    • Educate Yourself: Learn about the legal process and your rights as a parent. Understanding what to expect can help reduce The second half of my conversation with Patricia will focus on this topic.
    • Stay Child-Focused: Keep your child’s needs at the forefront of your Avoid speaking negatively about your co-parent in front of them.
    • Seek Professional Help: If you’re struggling to cope, consider talking to a therapist specializing in family issues.
    • Take Breaks: Stepping back from the custody battle is okay when needed. Give yourself permission to take breaks and focus on your well-being.


Patricia says she often sees “good people at their worst, dealing with probably one of the most awful circumstances in their lives.” Patricia remarks that, for the most part, by the time she begins working with divorcing parents, they may have had protracted discussions leading to disagreements and bitter emotional states.

By following these steps, you can better navigate the emotional challenges of a child custody battle and focus on what’s most important: your child’s happiness and well-being.







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