What Is Child Custody?

Divorces are always complicated, but they become even more difficult when children are involved. When two people end their marriage, the interests of any children in the relationship have to come first. Their safety and well-being are the top priority.
During the divorce proceedings, child custody is an important issue to discuss. It’s often one of the most contentious issues, in fact. So, what is child custody, and how is it decided?

What is Child Custody?

Child custody is the right assigned to a parent for different aspects of a child’s care. Generally, a parent with custody has the right to have their child live with them and make important legal decisions for them, according to the agreement designated by the court. However, custody comes in many forms, and each divorcing or separated couple has a different arrangement based on their situation.

What Are the Types of Child Custody?

There are several types of custody arrangements. The three most basic are:

  •  Joint custody–both parents have partial custody
  • Sole custody–one parent has custody, while the other has visitation rights
  • Third-party custody–a third party (typically a relative) is awarded custody

Joint custody can sometimes be split between physical custody and legal custody. Physical custody refers to who cares for the child, while legal custody refers to who makes important decisions for the child. Typically, both parents share legal and physical custody, but not always.

Sole custody involves one parent making all the decisions and providing everyday care. Visitation rights are typically given to the non-custodial parent and vary based on the situation.

Third-party custody is fairly uncommon. When the court deems that neither parent is fit to have custody (or both parents are deceased), another party, generally a close relative, is given custody.

What is the Most Common Custody Arrangement?

In most cases, joint custody is the preferred arrangement. This allows the child or children to spend a significant amount of time with both parents. The court encourages joint custody, as it is usually in the best interests of the child.
However, each situation is different. If the parents are living far apart after they are separated, then joint custody might be impossible. Or, the court might feel that one parent should not be given custody based on their past and current behavior.

How is Child Custody Decided?

Generally, the best way to decide on child custody is outside the courtroom. Divorcing or separating couples can decide on the terms of their custody arrangement on their own, which reduces costs, saves time, and eliminates the emotional stress of deciding custody in court. However, the court will intervene if necessary.
If you need more information on child custody or you need help with a custody case in Texas, call our law firm in San Antonio at (210) 953-7486 to discuss your case with our experienced family lawyer. We can help you protect your parental rights.