It is important for parents who may need to negotiate child custody or who are involved in a custody dispute to understand Texas law. Every state’s law is different regarding child custody, and research into those laws can help. Even within a state, jurisdictions could differ as well.

Parents might want to consider hiring an attorney. Attorneys may be able to assist with negotiation and litigation as well as explain unfamiliar legal terms and concepts to parents. For example, parents may not realize that there are actually two components to custody: legal and physical. Parents who have legal custody have the ability to make major decisions about such elements of the child’s life as religion, education and health care. Physical custody is about where the child lives the majority of the time.

Parents may feel they do not know where to begin finding an attorney. They can ask friends and family for recommendations. It is usually a good idea to talk to a few attorneys about their situation and needs if possible. In addition to finding out what kinds of cases the attorneys have worked on, parents should find out what the costs and pay structure will be and whether the attorney has sufficient time to take on the case.

Not every child custody case will end up in court. Parents have the option of negotiating an agreement with the help of their attorneys, and this is often a less stressful and costly solution. However, in some cases, one parent is uncooperative, or a parent may be concerned about the child’s safety with the other parent. Courts generally work from the assumption that it is in the best interests of the child to spend time with both parents unless there is a safety issue.