Sole vs Joint Custody: What Are Your Rights?
When you have custody of a child, you have certain rights and responsibilities. As a custodial parent, your rights can differ depending on the type of physical custody that you have. The rights and responsibilities of one parent may be greater than those of the other parent, particularly in a sole legal custody arrangement.
Parents going through a divorce must come up with a sound parenting plan to divide the rights fairly between both parties. If there are child custody disputes, and parents cannot agree on custody arrangements, the court will have the final decision on what is in the best interest of the child.
To learn more about the difference between sole and joint legal custody, and to figure out what rights you would have as a custodial parent, speak with an experienced family law attorney today. At Skillern Firm, our child custody lawyers can advise you on the complexities of custody arrangements and assess which arrangement is in your child’s best interests.
If you are fighting for sole legal custody of a child, we can help present your case to the Judge and fight aggressively on your behalf. Our law firm prioritizes the best interest of your children in all custody matters. We will use our significant experience and skills to get the best possible outcome in your case.
Call our law firm today at 936-213-8479 to schedule a consultation.
Legal and Physical Custody Explained
Divorced parents and separated parents share rights and responsibilities in their children’s lives. In Texas, legal custody is divided into two elements: conservatorship and possession and access. ‘Possession and access’ relates to the physical custody of the children, including who has primary possession of the children, where the children live, visitation rights, and access to the children.
Most courts prefer joint or shared physical custody, provided that it is in the best interest of the children. If there are any risks or dangers to the child’s life, such as domestic abuse, serious mental illness, child neglect, substance abuse, or child abuse, the court may impose a sole custody arrangement.
Conservatorship relates to the rights and responsibilities that each parent has to their children. This element of a custody arrangement decides who has the legal authority to take part in the decision-making process for major decisions in their child’s life, including:
- Medical care, including vaccinations, choice of medical professionals, and attendance in therapy
- Education and schooling
- Extracurricular activities, such as sports, art, and music lessons
Depending on the custody arrangements, one parent may have a greater say in the decision-making process than the other parent. In a joint custody arrangement, both parents have an equal say on major decisions in a child’s life. However, in a sole legal custody arrangement, one parent has the entire say in these decisions.
Sole Legal Custody
In a sole legal custody arrangement, one parent has complete custody of a child. This means they have sole physical custody, taking care of and having complete physical custody, and sole legal custody, making important decisions regarding the child’s welfare and life. Judges in Texas will only grant sole legal custody if they believe that a joint legal custody arrangement would not benefit the child.
If one parent has sole physical and legal custody of a child, they do not have to consult with the other parent when making important decisions. This means that the other parent does not have any say in the child’s education, health, or other important matters. The non-custodial parent may be awarded visitation rights by the court, however, the child resides full-time with the sole conservator parent.
To be granted sole custody, you must put forward a strong case to a Judge. This must include evidence that a joint custody arrangement would endanger or pose risks to your child’s welfare, such as evidence of a substance abuse problem or domestic violence. If you are fighting for sole physical custody of a child, or if your partner is fighting to deny you custody, seek help from an experienced family law attorney.
Joint Legal Custody
Joint custody is when both parents share joint legal custody over their children. This usually involves shared legal and physical custody of the children. Parents in a joint custody arrangement have equal rights over important decisions in a child’s upbringing and have shared physical custody of the children.
In most joint physical custody agreements, one parent acts as the primary caregiver. The child resides in the home of the primary caregiver and has scheduled visits with the other parent. Depending on the parenting plan or custody agreement made by the court, this could be specific weekdays, specific weekends, or by mutual agreement, for example.
With decision making, both parents must consult the other parent before making an important decision in a child’s life. Both parents may dispute a decision, such as sending a child to a private school, and they must both agree on the decision for it to be finalized.
How Does a Court Decide Between Sole and Joint Custody?
When going through a divorce in Texas, parents must put forward parenting plans outlining where the children will live, who will have primary custody of the children, and the visitation rights of the other parent. If parents cannot come up with a parenting plan, they can hire a mediator to help negotiate a plan or bring their case to a family court for a Judge to decide.
In court, the Judge will always consider the best interests of the child in child custody battles. In considering what is in the child’s best interest, they will look at:
- The child-parent relationship
- The stability and health of each parent
- What has been normal for the child until now, including where the child has lived, where their community is, and where their school is
- The financial situation of each parent
- The welfare and emotional needs of the child
- If there has been a history of alcohol or drug abuse, violence, or neglect
If the child is over the age of 12, they reserve the right to express their wants to the Judge. The Judge may take this into consideration when making a final decision. However, the child does not have a final say on what is in their best interests.
Petitioning For a Joint Legal Custody Arrangement
If you want to have joint physical custody of your children, but your ex-partner is fighting for a sole legal and physical custody arrangement, you must prove to the court why a joint physical custody arrangement is in the best interest of your children. In doing this, you must prove:
- You have a stable home environment and can provide this to your children
- You can make responsible decisions on behalf of your child
- You actively take part in your children’s lives
It is important to know that some legal rights will be exclusive to only one parent in a sole custody agreement. So, if you want to play an active role in your children’s lives and have a say in important decisions concerning their welfare, you need to put up a fight to get a joint custody agreement.
How a Family Law Attorney Can Help
Trying to understand child custody rights and duties can be complicated. If you are going through a divorce or a custody battle and are worried about what will happen to your children, get legal help from an experienced custody attorney.
A family law lawyer can help you by advising you on your rights as a custodial parent. They can explain to you how the custody system works, and help you petition for joint or sole custody. They will consider what is in the best interests of your children and take an impartial approach to the situation.
If you are worried about the welfare of your child, a lawyer can help you petition for sole physical custody. They can do this by gathering evidence to prove domestic violence, substance abuse, or any other negligent behavior of the other parent. They will ensure that any decision made is in the best interests of your child.
Skillern Firm – Sole vs. Joint Custody: What Are Your Rights?
Parental rights in joint and sole custody arrangements are different. In a sole custody agreement, one parent has exclusive rights over decisions in their children’s lives. The other parent may have visitation rights, however, they do not have a say in these important decisions.
In a joint custody agreement, both parents have an equal say in decisions regarding their children. This means both parents have the right to dispute decisions and the right to intervene in their children’s lives.
If you are going through a custody battle in Texas, and you are unsure of the difference between sole and joint legal custody arrangements, contact Skillern Firm for guidance. Our law firm specializes in family law matters, and we have a team of highly qualified and experienced lawyers who can help you with your case.
Our law firm has four attorneys that are Board Certified in Family Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization, and we have won multiple accolades and recognitions for our hard work and dedication to clients. Child custody decisions require significant attention and experience. With decisions regarding you and your child’s future, always have a highly experienced family attorney by your side.
Call our law firm at 936-213-8479 to schedule an initial consultation.