When developing parental agreements to present to the court for approval, Texas child custody lawyers discuss different types of custody roles with their clients, as there are multiple.

Two that child custody attorneys find to be confusing to some yet should be clearly understood are legal custody and physical custody.

Although both of these definitions overlap in most cases, they do have two separate definitions that can be of importance in certain situations.

Child custody law firms stress that parents should have a clear understanding of the two terms and how they are used to avoid confusion that can make co-parenting more difficult.

What Is Physical Child Custody?

Physical child custody refers to the possession and daily care of the child.

Also known by child custody lawyers in Texas as physical conservatorship, the Texas family court prefers what is called a standard possession order which designates one residence as the child’s main residence, with visitation to the other parent according to an approved visitation schedule.

This means that physical custody is normally with one parent, even in a joint conservatorship agreement, to promote continuity in the child’s life.

What Is Legal Child Custody?

Legal child custody refers to which parent or parents get to make legal decisions for the child.

Child custody attorneys again find that the family court in Texas does prefer to give joint legal conservatorship whenever possible unless this is not what is in the best interest of the child.

Child custody law firms do occasionally see times when the court will order primary legal custody to one parent over the other, giving that parent the sole right to make important decisions for the child even though the preference is for both parents to be able to share that responsibility, discuss decisions, and come to an agreement on them together.

How Do These Two Types of Custody Work Together - Or Apart?

Where child custody lawyers see clients getting a little confused is in how the two types of custody work together.

Using the standard parental order followed in Texas, parents can jointly make legal decisions for their child while one parent has primary physical custody, as this is the preferred co-parenting arrangement.

It does not mean, as some clients of child custody attorneys might presume, that one parent is receiving fewer rights than the other, as required visitation is an essential part of the standard agreement.

It merely prevents a situation where the child is continuously moving from house to house, which can be stressful.

This begs the question as to why there are two types of custody awarded and how they are used apart, if ever.

Although child custody law firms rarely see it happening, there are times when the court finds that one parent should not be allowed to make legal decisions for their child.

In these cases, primary legal custody would go to the other parent completely apart from whatever is approved regarding physical possession and visitation.

Let Experienced Child Custody Lawyers Fight For Parental Rights

To develop a workable custody agreement that is fair to both parents while also being in the child’s best interest, it is an essential asset to retain an experienced child custody lawyer who understands physical and legal custody, what the state prefers in both cases, and can clearly explain this to the parents.

Compassionate child custody attorneys can help parents retain their parental rights and get a favorable agreement approved by the family court that satisfies all parties.

This is especially important when circumstances might be out of the ordinary and the standard state-recommended custody order will not suffice.

Parents can more easily negotiate custody orders with a great child custody law firm on their side.

Schreier & Housewirth Family Law

1800 West Bowie Street, Suite 200-E
Fort Worth TX 76110



Gregory L. Housewirth is a Board-Certified Family Law Specialist practicing in Fort Worth Texas. With 30 years of family law experience, Mr. Housewirth has represented hundreds of clients in divorce, custody, CPS, modification, and grandparent cases. In addition, Mr. Housewirth is a qualified family law mediator and a member of Collaborative Law Texas, a practice group dedicated to promoting collaborative divorce in Texas.


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