When contemplating separation or divorce, a couple with children has the additional consideration of working through parenting issues and determining what arrangements are best for the child. Before beginning those discussions, it’s crucial to understand what the options for child custody in Texas are. Read on for what you need to know.

What Are the Types of Child Custody in Texas?

When most people think about child custody in Texas, they usually consider where the child will live. That’s known as physical custody. But there’s another type of custody known as legal custody. That involves the various important decisions that need to be made throughout the child’s life, including how and where they’ll be educated, religious upbringing (if any), extracurricular activities, discipline, and health and medical decisions. Legal custody does not involve the more mundane daily decisions, such as what the child will have for breakfast or if they can have a friend over to play after school. The parent who has physical custody of the child at that time will make those decisions. Legal custody only involves bigger life decisions.

Physical and legal custody are sometimes separate and sometimes intertwined in Texas custody cases. Below are the four types of custody in Texas.

Joint Custody

Texas courts lean toward joint custody whenever possible, considering it to be in the child’s best interests to have both parents actively involved in their lives. In Texas, there are three types of joint custody.

  • Joint legal custody. In this scenario, the child lives with only one parent, but both parents have legal custody (as described above).
  • Shared physical custody. Each parent has physical custody of the child for at least 35% of the time.
  • Combination. Parents can create a combination joint plan that suits their needs, such as having both joint legal and shared physical custody, but rather than having the child move between two homes, the child would stay in one while the parents rotate in and out.

Sole Custody

Sole custody means one parent has both full-time physical custody and full legal custody as well. The child will live with that parent permanently, and that parent has the only rights to make all important decisions on the child’s behalf. This type of custody is not assigned lightly. As discussed above, the court prefers to have both parents involved in the child’s life and sees that as being in the child’s best interests. However, if one parent is deemed unfit (there’s evidence of domestic violence or sexual abuse, or the parent is an addict) or has abandoned the family, the court will assign sole custody to the other parent.

Temporary Custody

This refers to custody ordered before a divorce is finalized and custody permanently assigned. It’s meant to only last as long as it takes for the divorce hearing to be held. The court will look at what it considers to be in the best interests of the child and is not a guarantee of permanent custody.

Split Custody

Split custody happens when there is more than one child in a family, and each parent takes on full-time Texas child custody of one or more of the children, while at least one child lives permanently with the other parent. This may be due to the preference of the child or because of the ages of the children.

What Does the Court Take into Consideration When Finalizing Custody?

As mentioned above, if one parent is unfit due to something such as being abusive or an addict, that will weigh heavily toward a decision for providing sole custody to the other parent. When parents request joint legal or shared physical custody, the court looks at several things.

One of the most important things the court wants to see is that in spite of the fact that they’re divorcing, the parents can remain calm and respectful with one another and negotiate custody issues in good faith. If the parents are at loggerheads over every issue, no matter how small, the judge may not agree with joint plans.

The court looks at the child’s preferences, although that’s not necessarily a major contributing factor to the custody decision. They’ll also look at the relationship the child has with their parents and a number of factors that look at the child’s best interests: If they will live close to school, will they have access to friends and other family members, how many children are there, the financial status of each parent, and does either parent have to work excessively long hours.

What Is a Parenting Plan?

The court will often require parents to submit a parenting plan as part of their divorce and custody proceedings. Essentially, it should include the results of negotiations dealing with the aspects of both physical and legal custody.

Even if the court doesn’t require it, it’s a good idea to draw one up, as it demonstrates that the parents were able to work together for their child’s best interests and manage negotiations to come to a custody agreement. Sometimes involving a mediator is necessary. An experienced child custody lawyer can help with the process.

How Can I Start the Process of Filing for Legal or Physical Custody of My Child?

Call the Cutrer Law Group at 817-813-8513 for a free case evaluation. Ensuring the health and well-being of your child is important to you, as is remaining involved in their life after divorce. We can help you sort through your options and prepare you for negotiating custody decisions as well as drawing up parenting plans to present to the court.