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Child Custody & SupportDivorce

The Difference Between Legal and Physical Custody in Texas

By May 17, 2024June 5th, 2024No Comments

As you proceed through your divorce, it can become confusing to understand all the different terms and what everything means. A common question that our clients have asked our Texas family law attorneys is; what is the difference between legal and physical custody in Texas? What does this mean for me and my child custody case?

There are two different types of custody; legal custody and physical custody. In most cases, each parent is granted some custody, but how custody is divided and which parent becomes the primary parent and is responsible for the most important decisions regarding the child can become problematic if the parents can not agree. 

This article from the C.E. Borman team in Bryan, Texas explains the differences and what they could mean for your child custody case.

What is legal custody in Bryan, Texas?

When the courts grant you legal custody, that parent can make decisions for the child. The parent is responsible for making significant and day-to-day decisions for the child. This includes decisions such as;

  • Education
  • Medical treatment
  • Tutoring
  • Therapy
  • Religion
  • Extra-curricular activities

During divorce proceedings, if both parents can peacefully make joint decisions and are active in raising the child, the judge typically will award joint legal custody. In this case, both parents can make decisions regarding the child, just as they did during the marriage. Although this may seem simple, some factors influence the decision for joint legal custody. Factors include;

  • Relationship with child
  • Age of the child
  • How it affects school and extra-curricular activities (travel)
  • Parent employment
  • Financial status;
  • Health of parent

What is physical custody in Texas child support cases?

While legal custody focuses on decision-making authority and responsibility, physical custody concerns the day-to-day care and living arrangements of the child. 

Under Texas law, this is considered “possession” of the child. Whichever parent has physical custody means the child will primarily live with them, also called the custodial parent. The other parent, or the non-custodial parent, will be granted visitation rights, including weekdays, weekends, spring and summer break, and holidays. It’s typically split so the other parent can see the child 35% of the year. It is called sole custody if a parent has legal and physical custody.

Most of the time, Texas will award joint legal custody to both parents and physical custody to one parent. This type of agreement is typically the preferred agreement amongst parents looking to co-parent together. 

It is the court’s preference that the child maintains a meaningful relationship with both of their parents, and joint custody often is the best way to promote positive parent-child relationships. The child custody agreement will lay out the specifics of legal and physical custody.

Does a child custody agreement affect child support in Texas?

Yes, it does. The non-custodial parent is typically the parent who will pay for child support until the child is 18 to help pay for the responsibilities that the child’s custodial parent has. If both parents are awarded joint custody, and the other parent is with the child less than 50% of the time, that parent will still have to pay child support. 

Who decides the child custody agreement?

It is in the child’s best interest that the parents work together to develop the child custody agreement with the child’s needs and best interests in mind. This plan should work uniquely for the family and set a good foundation for co-parenting. 

It should also be noted that the more you can agree on your child custody agreement, the less your legal fees will be. The court has to approve the child custody agreement and typically will if it is in the child’s best interest.

The court will decide on the child custody agreement if the parents cannot agree. It will make this decision based on the best interest of the child. This decision will is on;

  • Home life
  • Child’s caretaker
  • Parent employment
  • Distance
  • Physical and emotional needs of the child
  • Watch the video: Changes in the Texas Standard Possession Order

Contact a Bryan, Texas Family Law attorney for help with your child custody agreement

A Texas Family Law attorney should work alongside you to create a child custody agreement that not only has the child’s best interest in mind but is there to guide you through what is best for you and your new future. Contact our team of experienced child custody attorneys today to get started. 

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