In the minds of many individuals, a son and/or a daughter is the most precious being in the world and the greatest accomplishment that they will ever achieve. The United States is a country where children are often placed on pedestals with a constant movement towards more protection and more opportunities for them, but it is also a place where the divorce rate is ever growing and nearing fifty percent, which is an issue when it comes to the ongoing battle of who gets to keep custody of a child when the divorce goes through. All over the country, couples are going head to head to see who their child will reside with and who will only get to see them on the weekends. When a couple is getting divorced, in Texas, there are different ways that the state can choose to handle it and different ways that an agreement might be reached.
From the very beginning of the divorce process, the state´s objective is mainly to preserve the best interest of the child by demanding that the parents take a parenting class, as long as they have children that are minors. This helps to cope with the emotional trauma that a divorce brings, not only for the child, but also for the adults involved. After the class has been completed, whether in an overcrowded classroom or over an online course at the comfort of their own home, the real “battle” starts in order to decide who gets custody of the child. In Texas, legal custody refers to the right that a parent has to make the decisions to raise the child a certain way, from day-to-day activities, even to the medical treatments the child receives. Meanwhile, the physical custody aspect refers to the act of actually having the child and who the child lives with. After these, the state of Texas further defines the different agreements that a custody battle can lead to: sole custody, joint custody, shared custody, or split custody.
The result of most custody decisions tends to be joint custody, as long as both parents are able, willing, and there is no history of abuse or any kind of neglect from either party. In this arrangement, the child lives primarily with one of the parents and visits the other one, but they both have equal input on the decisions that need to be made regarding the upbringing. Following this option, is the shared custody outlook. Shared custody maintains much of the same principles of joint custody except that the child has two legal residences and must live with each parent for at least thirty five percent of the year. These two arrangements tend to be the most common since both parents get to maintain equal say in the decisions affecting the upbringing of the child and a relationship with both parents can still be formed.
Aside from the two courses of action described above, the state of Texas still has two more options that are rarely considered, much less chosen, when settling a custody dispute: sole custody and split custody. In sole custody cases, the child ends up residing only with the parent dictated by the state and only the chosen parent is able to make any of the decisions about how to raise the child. Under sole custody, the noncustodial parent- unless otherwise directly specified by the court- still remains with visitation rights, meaning that this parent still gets to spend time with the child and has rights to him/her every other weekend and during the summer, but does not get to make the decisions when raising the child. At the bottom of the list, an arrangement rarely used in custody disputes, is split custody. For this arrangement to apply, it requires at least two children, and each parent gets full custody of at least one of the children, while the other receives visitation. These two last alternatives are rarely chosen due to the fact that they are the least beneficial for the child and tend to be more damaging to the family structure.
Who gets to have custody of a child is not a matter to be taken lightly by anyone because the wellbeing of the child depends on the quality care that he or she is receiving at home. The court takes into account many different factors that go into making the decision, such as, who the primary caretaker has been, the profiles of the child and the parents, the practicability of placement considering the child’s primary routine (school, extracurricular, etc…), and depending on the child’s age -usually about twelve years old- his/her preference on who they would rather live with. The process of divorce is not easy on any of the involved individuals, including the one who has to make the difficult decision of choosing where the child will live, but the State does its best to place the child where it will benefit him/her the most.