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What is the Most Common Child Custody Arrangement?

What is the Most Common Child Custody Arrangement?

While joint custody is the most common arrangement for divorcing parents with children, our child custody lawyer can help you determine if this is the best arrangement for you.

Everyone wants what is best for their child, but, unfortunately, when divorce enters the picture, parents may wind up warring over custody issues. While joint custody is most common, and courts are trending toward giving parents 50/50 time with their children, sole custody and primary physical custody are also possible custody arrangements, and conflicts over which arrangement is best can lead to a contentious court battle that is damaging to all parties.

Ideally, couples who are divorcing should be able to negotiate and come to an agreement as to custody and visitation issues after considering the well-being of the children and find a solution where both parents can have a meaningful connection with them. When this does not happen and parents cannot agree, the courts may have to get involved and mandate a custody arrangement that may be less than desirable.

Fortunately, you do not have to fight for a satisfactory custody arrangement alone. The compassionate child custody attorneys at the Evans & Herlihy Law Firm understand what you are going through. We know the laws and the courts and can help you get the best custody arrangement possible. Children’s well-being is paramount and every family’s situation is different, so the custody arrangements that work best take into consideration everyone’s needs.

While you may wonder what is the most common child custody arrangement, the most important is the one that works best for your children and you. We offer a free consultation to discuss the facts of your individual situation, answer your questions and concerns, and show you how we can help.

What Is the Typical Child Custody Arrangement?

In many states, the courts first consider the “best interests of the child” standard in determining a typical custody arrangement. The courts evaluate factors that include:

  • the home environment each parent offers
  • the distance between the parents’ homes
  • each parent’s ability to serve as the child’s caregiver
  • whether the parents can work together in raising the child
  • each parent’s financial circumstances
  • each parent’s employment situation (including travel and work hours that might limit the parent’s availability)
  • in some cases, the child’s preference as to which parent they prefer to live with, primarily if the child is at least 12 years old.

Details can be found in Section 154.004 of the Texas Family Code.

After these considerations, one of the following custody arrangements may be ordered:

Joint Custody

Joint custody, where both parents have custody of all children involved, is preferred and is the most common arrangement, if conditions allow. Parents share physical and legal responsibility and are equally involved in making important life decisions for the child, such as about health, education, and religious upbringing. With joint custody, one parent may still have to pay child support to the other, depending on their relative financial situations.

Sole Custody

Sole custody is where only one parent is given complete legal and physical responsibility of a child. The child lives with that parent full time, and that parent makes all major life decisions about the child. Sole custody may be given to one parent if the other is deemed unfit, for reasons such as violence or mental health.

Full Custody

Full custody is similar to sole custody, with one parent having physical and legal custody. The difference is that the other parent is granted visitation rights with the children.

Split Custody

Split custody may be given when parents have two or more children. Each parent has sole custody of one or more children, and the other parent has it for the remaining children. Split custody is the least common type of arrangement.

At Evans & Herlihy, we can tell you what custody arrangement may be typical for many of our clients, but we will always provide legal guidance so yours is best for you and your children.

Common Custody Arrangements in Texas

Custody arrangements in Texas are often based on a Standard Possession Order (SPO) that sets the schedule for each parent’s time with the child.

Texas has a Standard Possession Order (SPO), set out in Texas Family Code § 153. The purpose of the SPO is to protect the best interests of children when determining when the non-custodial parent has visitation.

Texas courts refers to the parent or guardian of a child as a “conservator,” and the amount of time a parent spends with the child as “access.” The SPO sets out what weekdays, weekends, and holidays both the custodial and non-custodial parent can have with their children. The SPO is open for negotiations and may be changed to account for individual circumstances.

When courts decide on child custody, they designate with which parent a child will primarily live, and that parent is considered to be the custodial or primary parent. The non-custodial parent is granted visitation, which is called “possession and access” in Texas.

The courts’ policy is to “encourage frequent contact between a child and each parent for periods of possession that optimize the development of a close and continuing relationship between each parent and child.”

Other frequently used possession orders in Texas include:

  • Expanded Standard Possession – Similar to the Standard Possession Order, this also allows for an additional overnight period of possession for the non-custodial parent, and it allows that parent to pick up and drop off the child at school during the school year.
  • Modified Possession – The courts allow a Modified Possession Order to enable parents to make any needed changes to the Standard Possession Order. This order may be customized according to the schedules and circumstances of the parents and children.
  • Possession Orders for a Child Under 3/Supervised Possession – Special considerations may apply if the child is under 3 or if a judge’s concern for the child’s safety leads to an order for supervised possession. According to Sec. 153.254 (d), the court shall make a prospective order, which is presumed to be the standard possession order, to take effect on the child’s third birthday.

While the trend is to give parents as much equal time with their children as possible, realistically, there are factors that often make true joint 50/50 custody difficult to achieve. Therefore, factors that will be considered in possession orders include:

  • parental home distance
  • transportation issues
  • demands of job hours.

As a result, courts often grant ”joint managing conservatorship” so both parents equally share in making the child’s legal and lifestyle decisions, including the right to inquire, participate in and make decisions regarding the child’s education, health, after-school activities, what religion the child practices, and legal needs. However, the child still lives primarily with one parent while the other has possession rights according to the agreed-upon schedule.

A skilled child custody attorney can help you understand which type of possession order applies to and is best suited for your custody needs and wishes.

The Most Common Child Custody Agreement May Not Be Best for You

It is usually best if parents can come to an agreement about their custody arrangements through a mutually acceptable parenting plan and schedule that benefits both parents and their children. Even if some custody agreements are common, none are one-size-fits-all. Our team at Evans & Herlihy will make sure that your custody agreement fits the needs of your children and you. We will negotiate aggressively to make this happen, but if an agreement can’t be reached with negotiation, we are fully prepared to fight for your rights in court if necessary. Find out how we can help you. Contact our team at (512) 732-2727 today to schedule a free consultation.

Attorney Chip Evans

Austin Attorney Chip EvansChip Evans is a partner at Evans & Herlihy. Chip brings to the firm more than 20 years of experience as a trial lawyer representing Plaintiffs. It is the desire to help individuals, not corporations, that attracts Chip to this side of the docket. [ Attorney Bio ]