What Is Legal Custody?


What Is Legal Custody?

Legal custody is defined as having the legal authority to make important decisions on behalf of a child. These include decisions regarding the child’s education, which doctor they will see, what religion they are raised in, and which extracurricular activities they will participate in.

Legal custody is separate from the physical form, meaning that two parents can share legal responsibilities of the children but not physical responsibilities. For example, although a child my live with their mother the majority of the time, their father can still have joint legal custody.

Getting a divorce is never easy, especially when you have children involved. When couples with children get a divorce, they are dealing with not only their own emotions, but the emotions of their kids as well. Perhaps one of the most difficult parts of a divorce is deciding who will get the kids. In some cases, like those where one parent stayed home with the kids, the answer might be very simple, where with others the answer may not come so easily. Getting involved in a full blown battle can be very time consuming and very expensive in the long run.

Child custody and visitation are never considered final and they are always subject to change. Even after an arrangement is finalized, either party can always pursue a modification to the arrangement. As time goes by, it is extremely common for parents to go back to court because they had a significant change in circumstances, thus warranting a modification.

The state of Texas has stayed abreast of the changing trends in family law. Texas no longer favors the mother over a father in a divorce proceeding; therefore, the courts will give equal consideration to both parents regardless of gender. These days with so many dual income households, many couples share responsibility in the raising of the kids, more than they did a generation or two ago.

Although grandparents can seek custody of their grandchildren, generally speaking, the courts prefer for it to be the natural parents. This doesn’t mean that grandparents don’t have rights. At times when the natural parents may be “unfit” to raise the children, the grandparents may very well be awarded custody of their grandchildren.

When a parent has both legal and physical custody of a child, it means that they have the sole right to make decisions about the child’s welfare. They have the right to make decisions about the child’s schooling, where they will live, religious upbringing, and much more. With sole custody, both physical and legal custody are given to one parent. This is common in cases where one parent has a criminal record, or if one parent has demonstrated to be physically violent against the spouse or child. However, sole custody can also be arranged through a “mutual agreement” by both parents for their own personal reasons.

With joint legal, both parents participate in raising the child, but the child has one primary residence. With shared physical, the child has two primary residences where the child spends at least 35% of their time with their other parent.

Parents can also make their own arrangement that doesn’t conform to any set standards. For instance, the child can rotate one week with their mother, then one week with their father. This is especially common if the parents live near each other or in the same school zone.

Child custody can be a contentious issue for ex-spouses. If they can work together to form a reasonable arrangement where both parents play an active role in their child’s life, then the children will benefit for sure. The courts scrutinize Joint Custody agreements; therefore, if the parents are having a lot of trouble sticking to them, and if they keep arguing, then the courts might strike down their arrangement. If you need help with this type of matter, you should seek the advice of an experienced family law attorney. Child custody is a complex area of law that deserves detailed focus and attention when issues arise. A divorce lawyer will be able to inform you of your legal rights, while helping you to achieve your goals.


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