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Structuring a sound child custody agreement helps everyone

As some Texans know, child custody may be an emotionally charged issue. While there are some cases in Texas in which parents are able to decide what is best for their child and arrive at an agreement on their own, there are also instances in which the court must step in and decide in the best interests of the child. Understanding child custody might make it easier to proceed.

There are two types of custody: Physical custody denotes the actual physical environment in which the child lives, and legal custody concerns decisions about issues such as health care, religion and education. Legal custody is often shared by both parents.

Joint physical custody requires a good deal of cooperation from the parents. In this situation, the child spends a significant amount of time with each parent. Such an arrangement requires that the parents are able to communicate with one another in an appropriate way. Some feel moving back and forth from one residence to another is not easy on children and contend that it might be better for them to live with one parent and visit extensively with the other instead.

Split custody can come into play for couples who have more than one child: The children are divided between the parents. This type of custody is usually not preferred by the courts as it forces siblings apart.

Unmarried parents have a different situation. Generally speaking, the courts will grant physical custody to the mother. This decision may be challenged by the father, but the mother will be granted custody unless a solid reason against that is proven.

An attorney experienced in family law could offer insight into the custody laws in Texas and lay out the options open to a parent facing this situation. The attorney could help a parent work on a custody agreement that is workable for both parents and provides the easiest transition for the child.

Source: Findlaw, "Child Custody Basics", July 31, 2014

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