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What are the child custody options in a Texas divorce?

For many divorcing parents in Texas, decisions related to their children are the most emotional and challenging part of the proceedings. In many circumstances, both parents are concerned that their relationships with their children may be jeopardized. Parents can negotiate and resolve child custody issues directly in most circumstances. However, if the parents cannot agree about child custody, the family court will have to make these important decisions.

Whatever the court decides will always focus on the best interests of the children. First, the court will decide the issue of legal custody for any minor children. This will give one or both parents the right to make decisions related to schooling, religion, cultural activities and health issues. More and more courts favor scenarios in which parents have joint child custody, allowing both parents to make important decisions related to the children's upbringing. However, the court has the authority to award one parent sole legal custody in appropriate circumstances.

In addition, physical custody will determine where the child will live. Here also, the court may decide to assign physical custody to both parents. If the court awards joint custody, the parents may have equal time with the child, and they can draft a parenting plan that will be in the best interest of the child/ren for the court's approval. If the court decides to award physical custody to only one parent,  that parent will have the child for the majority of the time with the other parent typically being allocated visiting time. The first parent will then have sole physical custody, and the other parent will be known as the noncustodial parent.

There is another option for Texas parents who do not want the court to make these important decisions. If a parent finds it difficult to negotiate child custody issues, an experienced family law attorney may be able to help. A lawyer can even arrange a professional divorce mediator to facilitate negotiations between the parents with the focus on achieving agreements that are fair. Each party's attorney may be present to provide valuable input and help draft parenting plans and the final child custody agreement for submission to the court.

Source: marriage.com, "Child Custody & Visitation in a Divorce", Accessed on Nov. 5, 2016

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