Child Custody and Visitation Overview - Family Court Direct
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Child Custody and Visitation Overview

When parents of minor children end their marriage or initiate paternity proceedings, the courts will decide about child custody and visitation issues.

Types of Child Custody


Two main types of custody include legal and physical custody. While physical custody involves the right to determine where the child will live, legal custody involves the right to make decisions regarding the child’s health, upbringing, and education.

In Texas, legal custody is referred to as Managing conservatorship, while Possession and access refer to physical custody of the children or when they can visit them.

Family court judges are often inclined to award joint legal custody and joint physical custody to both parents. That is because courts consider that having contact with both parents is beneficial to the child, and they are obligated to respect the child’s best interest. But, if one parent is considered unfit – the court will award sole legal custody and even sole physical custody to one parent.

Visitation Rights


When the parents of minor children have decided to terminate their marriage and/or initiate paternity proceedings, the courts will order child custody and visitation based on all the information submitted by both parties with consideration for what is “in the best interest of the child.”

Visitation typically refers to the parenting time given to the noncustodial parent if the other parent has been given sole custody of the child or children.

Even though the noncustodial parent has the right to see their children, the court may arrange visitation and include specific conditions that have to be met. For example, a court can set specific dates, times, and locations where noncustodial parents can see their children.

The court can also order supervised visitation if one parent poses a threat to the child.

What Is a Parenting Plan?

When preparing to request a custody and visitation order from the court, it is important that you prioritize your child’s interests and well-being, while also accounting for evolving needs and future expectations. Explore developing a parenting plan, either alone or in cooperation with the other parent. 

A parenting plan can map out a course of action that allows you and the children of the relationship to better cope with the separation. In some cases, mediation can help parents quickly develop a mutually agreed upon parenting plan which can ease both parties and children during subsequent court proceedings.

Cooperation and Child’s Best Interest

While you may have strong opinions of what is considered best for your child, be aware that the court is meant to be a neutral third party tasked with developing a plan that will optimize the child’s comfort and well-being. The feelings and expectations of the parents are not of paramount interest to the court, especially if they appear to conflict with the child’s needs.

When attempting to work out a parenting schedule, aim for cooperation and calm. Try to remove any feelings of animosity or defensiveness when communicating with the other parent and try to keep an open mind.  

While you may not be able to agree on an ideal parenting plan, if you keep the lines of communication open you will have a better chance of coming to a decision that is acceptable to both parents while also helping the child cope with separated parents.