Fathers in Texas who wanted shared child custody after a divorce were typically disappointed for the most part of the 20th century because family courts tended to favor the mothers when awarding child custody. However, during the last three decades, there has been a marked difference in how the courts have been handling child custody: It has become increasingly common for the family courts to encourage or even insist on mutual agreements that include shared custody.

Legal custody gives parents autonomy over the decisions made about their children’s education, healthcare, religion and any other part of their well-being. Residential or physical custody is determined by where the children reside at night.

While divorce laws vary from state to state, the family courts deciding custody cases generally begin by considering joint legal custody and are willing to also consider joint residential custody. Because it can be very difficult to divide residential custody in equal halves, as working parents are likely to find it logistically impossible transferring the children back and forth during the school week, mothers are often still favored when family courts award shared residential custody.

Since the 1980s, the amount of time fathers can spend with their children after separation has undergone a significant change. One 2014 study found that in 1980, mothers in one state were awarded sole custody of the kids in 80 percent of the divorce cases reviewed; that rate had fallen to 42 percent by 2008.

An attorney who practices family law may assist parents with obtaining their desired child custody and visitation settlement terms during a divorce. The attorney may litigate to ensure that clients have sufficient access to their children.