Family courts and the “primary caretaker” standard

Child custody can be one of the thorniest and most emotional issues to handle when Texas couples decide to divorce. Both parents have an equal right to seek and obtain physical custody of their child, and most family law courts prefer agreements developed by the parents themselves with their lawyers. However, in more contentious cases, a family court judge makes a decision about who will get primary physical custody. In these situations, the parent that is determined to have been the child's “primary caretaker” may be awarded custody.

Most states' family law courts permit this preference for the parent that cared more frequently for the child prior to the custody case whether the parents are married or unmarried. Child psychologists and other experts have emphasized the importance of the development of stable bonds between children and caretakers to preserve kids' feelings of safety despite an ongoing divorce.

The determination of which parent was the primary caregiver generally involves looking at who handled the responsibilities for the child's care. These include participating in his or her education; providing for basic needs, like bathing, grooming, and feeding; doing the child's laundry; and other activities.

The courts always make decisions based on what is in the best interests of the child. This is especially true when both parents have been active participants in the child's life. The child's preferences may be taken into account if he or she is above a certain age. Other factors that are considered include support for extended family interactions, the child's adjustment to his or her school and community, a parent's history of excessive discipline or emotional abuse or evidence of misconduct.

A family law attorney can provide important guidance and representation to a parent seeking child custody. This type of legal professional knows and understands the factors assessed by the court and can help parents to present evidence of their involvement in their child's life and their bond with him or her, making a case for primary custody.

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