A Guide to Joint Legal Custody
If you are going through a divorce and have children, you are probably concerned about getting custody or at least sharing custody of your children. Fortunately, the Texas court system tends to favor joint legal custody in most cases.
That’s because they believe that children benefit greatly from having close bonds with both of their parents. And they strongly keep the children’s best interests in mind as they make their decisions.
Legal Custody Versus Physical Custody
There are two main kinds of custody: legal and physical custody. Legal custody involves the parents’ right to make certain decisions about their children’s lives and their upbringing. This includes schooling, religion, medical care, leisure activities, and more.
Physical custody, on the other hand, determines where the children live. With joint physical custody, the parents spend an equal amount of time with their children. In order to facilitate this, the children move from one home to the other in certain intervals that are laid out in the parenting plan. Of course, there are also other possible arrangements.
It is generally a good idea to get the help of an experienced Texas family law attorney when creating the parenting plan. This is especially important since it is not easy to change the plan later because any changes to the plan must be made necessary by significant changes in the parents’ or the children’s circumstances.
In addition, the guidance of the Texas attorney general’s co-parenting guide can also be very helpful during the creation of the parenting plan.
Joint Custody Versus Full Custody
In addition to joint custody, there is the option of full custody as well, which is also known as sole custody. With full custody, one parent has the right to make all decisions about their children. In Texas, this is also called a sole managing conservatorship
Joint custody, on the other hand, means that both parents are working together to make the important decisions about their children’s lives. As mentioned above, joint custody is much more common than full custody because the courts aim to preserve the bonds between the parents and their children.
If the courts decide against joint legal custody, there is usually a reason for their decision. This can happen if a parent has a history of abuse, other types of family violence, drug use, or neglect. In that kind of situation, keeping the children safe takes precedence over giving both parents access to them.
Then again, sometimes one of the parents may try to gain an advantage in terms of the custody arrangement by accusing the other parent of wrongdoing. And in some cases, there may have been problems in the past, but the guilty party has been rehabilitated. In any situation like that, it is crucial to seek out the guidance of an experienced Texas child custody attorney.
More About Physical Custody in Texas
While joint legal custody is fairly standard in Texas, a 50/50 physical custody arrangement is not. Texas law does not consider that to be in the children’s best interest because their lives would be disrupted with the constant need to move back and forth between their parents’ homes. Instead, the law prefers something called a Texas standard possession order.
With a standard possession order, one parent’s home is considered the child’s home. As a result, the other parent spends less time with the child. The usual legal arrangements specify that the other parent has possession of the child on every first, third and fifth weekend as well as on every Thursday night. Time spent on holidays, birthdays, and vacations can alternate.
What You Can Do to Improve Your Chances
Still, there is a way to create a 50/50 physical custody arrangement even in Texas. However, you would have to be on very good terms with your ex so that you can create a parenting plan with a 50/50 split that you both agree on. While a court still has to approve the plan, if you and your ex agree, the judges are more likely to honor that.
If you can’t agree, it’s also possible to fight for 50/50 custody. However, this will be more challenging and requires you to gather a lot of evidence that you are a regular part of your children’s daily life. You need to show evidence that you have been feeding them, and, if they are young enough, that you’ve been changing them as well. Perhaps you’ve also picked them up from school or kindergarten and helped them with their homework.
However, if you live far away from your child, the court will probably still not agree with a 50/50 custody arrangement since they believe that consistency is very important in a child’s life. And naturally, moving back and forth so far away from their normal environment can be quite disruptive for children.
The age of the child plays a role as well. Still, it’s not impossible and an experienced child custody attorney will be able to help you turn the odds in your favor.
If you do succeed in getting equal custody, what will the schedule be? Most parents opt for alternating weeks. When it comes to vacations and holidays, they usually split them evenly and sometimes rotate them as needed.
While getting joint legal custody is fairly easy in Texas, it can be quite a feat to get joint physical custody. And if you are getting divorced and want to make sure that you get to spend as much quality time with your children as possible, be sure to find an experienced Texas child custody lawyer to help you. Call or send an email to arrange for a free case evaluation. We will be happy to assist you.