Understanding different types of child custody

Child custody is usually one of the most contentious issues in any divorce. In most cases, a judge will try to award some form of joint custody so that the child can spend time with both parents. However, various factors can influence a judge's decision. 

In one recent example in Texas, a mother accused the father of her child of abusive behavior and sought to terminate his parental rights. A litany of other factors can influence a judge's decision, and it is vital for both parents to be aware of all their options. This will allow them to plan accordingly and determine what is best for their family. 

Physical vs. legal custody

When most people think of child custody, they think about physical custody. They think about how often a child physically spends with each parent in his and her home. Parents sharing custody of a child generally work best when they both live near each other and can easily drop the child off throughout the week. 

Legal custody means both parents still have a legal obligation to care for the child. When parents share joint legal custody, they are both responsible for making important decisions on behalf of the child until he or she turns 18. Additionally, they both need to pay for the child's essentials. It is possible for the court to terminate one parent's legal custody of the child under certain circumstances. It is also possible for a parent to have sole physical custody while the other parent still maintains legal custody to make child support payments. 

Sole vs. joint custody

One parent having a dependency on drugs or alcohol may be reason enough for a judge to award sole custody to the other adult. It all comes down to what the judge believes will be best for the child's development. In a majority of cases, joint custody is the outcome. 

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