While there are many difficult topics to negotiate during a Texas divorce, child custody may be one of the most overwhelming. In some cases, both parents may want joint custody of the child or one parent may fight for sole custody.
It is up to the court to make a decision based on what is in the best interest of the child. Whether you are currently going through a divorce or thinking of separating, it is helpful to know how child custody works and what to expect when filing for custody in Texas.
What is physical and legal custody?
The court may decide to award either sole or joint physical custody to parents depending on what is deemed best for the child. In a sole physical custody situation, the child resides primarily with one parent, while the non-custodial parent has scheduled visitation rights. Joint custody arrangements, on the other hand, involve the child spending equal amounts of time with each parent.
Legal custody dictates which party is responsible for making important decisions regarding the child’s upbringing, including school, religion and medical treatment. The court can also award joint or sole legal custody.
What are the factors to consider?
Before the court makes a final custody decision, it often considers several factors regarding the case, according to Very Well Family. These include the following:
- The mental and physical health of each parent
- Occupation and income of each parent
- Each parent’s ability to care and provide for the child
- The environment each parent lives in, including the distance to school and safety of the community
- Whether there is domestic violence
The court will often look at which parent acted as primary caretaker during the marriage. In some cases, the court may ask the child which parent they would prefer to live with.
Once the court sets custody and visitation plans, it is not set in stone. Either parent may petition for a modification of the plan should a change in life circumstances occur.