If you are facing a divorce, need a child custody modification, or have child custody concerns outside of marriage, it's an important matter that directly affects your parental rights and your ongoing relationship with your children. The seriousness of child custody issues (officially called conservatorship in Texas) is so considerable that you are well-advised to have professional legal counsel on your side.
In Texas, child custody is divided into both legal and physical custody. Legal custody relates to the parental responsibility of making important life decisions for your children as they grow. The kinds of decisions that make up legal custody include those that relate to areas of concern, such as the following:
- The medical care and attention your children receive
- Your children’s education (Read more: Divorce and Your Children’s School)
- Your children’s religious upbringing
- Your children’s extracurricular activities
Legal custody can be either sole, which means that one of you will take over the responsibility, or joint, which means that you will both share the responsibility. Some parents even choose to divide this responsibility according to topic. For example, one parent will focus on questions related to extracurriculars and religious upbringing, while the other takes on education and health care (in accordance with each parent’s priorities, interests, and parenting strengths).
Physical Custody relates to how you and your children’s other parent will share your time with your children (called parenting time). Physical custody can also be either sole or joint, but it’s important to recognize that the court takes great pains not to deny parents the right to continue spending at least some time with their children (unless there is a very serious reason for going this route). Parenting time schedules can fall in one of the two following categories (or anywhere in between):
A traditional schedule whereby one parent becomes the primary custodial parent (with whom the children make their primary home) and the other has a visitation schedule
A schedule whereby both parents split their time with the children equally or nearly equally (Read more about 50/50 possession schedules and child support)
If you and your ex are able to negotiate, you can hammer out whatever kind of parenting time schedule works for you and your children. If this isn’t the case, however, the court is likely to hand down one of its standard possession orders (SPO).
The Court’s Involvement
The bottom line is that if you and your children's other parent can come to a consensus regarding child custody terms, the court is nearly certain to include them in your final divorce decree. If not, you’ll need the court to step in on your behalf, but before you reach this point, you have options that include allowing your dedicated divorce attorney to negotiate for favorable terms on your behalf and alternative dispute resolution (ADR) such as mediation.
Look to an Experienced Killeen Divorce Attorney for the Legal Help You Need
Brett Pritchard at The Law Office of Brett H. Pritchard in Killeen, Texas, is a resourceful divorce attorney who is on your side and here to help. For more information, please do not wait to contact or call us at 254-501-4040 today.