Not all Texas couples who have children together are married. Even so, unmarried couples who are separating have the same child custody concerns as those who are going through a divorce. It will still be necessary to negotiate and execute an agreement regarding legal custody, physical custody and visitation.
Without an agreement that is approved by the court, neither married nor unmarried parents can be sure that they will be able to enforce their parental rights if the other parent refuses to comply with any arrangements they make. It is often better for everyone involved if the parents work together to create a parenting plan that is tailored to their family’s needs. If the decisions are left to a Texas court, the parties -- and the children -- might not be happy with the results since the court does not have the wide amount of discretion that the parents do when they create their own arrangements.
Whether married or unmarried, it would be a good idea for each of you to be represented by counsel before the negotiations begin. For example, you might not be aware that there are two types of custody. The first is legal custody, which gives each parent the right to make decisions on behalf of the life. Physical custody determines with which parent the child will live. Most people agree to share legal custody. The issue of physical custody is often where conflicts arise between the parents.
Once a child custody agreement is executed and approved by the court, it is up to you and the other parent to fulfill your obligations as outlined within the agreement. If one of you fails to comply with the agreement, the other party can return to the court in order to have it enforced. This is why parents are often encouraged to create their own parenting plan because they are more satisfied that the agreement is fair and, thus, might be more willing to adhere to it, which would save further time and money in a Texas court.