Why I Don’t Like the Phrase “Full Custody”

One of the first questions I often hear from a new client is, “how can I get full custody?”  Or, “I’m afraid the other parent is going to try to get full custody.”  In Texas law, the term “full custody” means too much and too little at the same time, so I try to avoid it completely.

A Texas order relating to children is generally going to cover the following four topics:

  1. Possession schedule (whether that be the standard possession order, a 50/50 possession schedule, or some other customized schedule that the parents may agree on);
  2. Child support (including payment of health insurance and other health care expenses);
  3. Decision-making (will parents have to agree on certain important decisions, or will one parent have the right to make a decision); and
  4. Geographic restriction (where will the child be able to live).

When most people think of “full custody,” they are likely picturing a possession schedule where the child resides primarily with one parent.  However, under Texas law, children will spend significant time with both parents, unless there are particular concerns about a parent’s safety.  Therefore, our work in any custody case is to negotiate the specifics of each of the four areas listed above.  The term “full custody” implies too much and doesn’t provide the details that we need.

Basic Child Issues

I’m posting a series of videos on the basics of a Texas divorce on my YouTube channel. I’m also posting the “scripts” here on my blog. Here’s the first one:

Divorcing parents are most often concerned about what is going to happen with the children. First of all, except for severe cases like abuse or addiction, a court will not award “sole” custody. The rules that courts must follow state that it is in the best interests of children to have continuing contact with both parents. That alone will alleviate a lot of worry that parents, especially fathers, can face when divorcing.

Now, I’m going to give a very quick overview of the child-related issues in divorce. There are three main areas: (1) Visitation schedule, (2) Child support, and (3) What we call “rights and duties.”


Courts will rubber stamp any schedule that parents can agree on. I’ve had parents do a week-on-week-off schedule, an every-weekend schedule, and lots of other creative schedules.

If the parents can’t agree, the court will go to the “standard possession schedule.” One parent will be considered “primary.” The other parent will have possession on the 1st, 3rd, and 5th weekends, Thursday night, and alternating holidays. That parent may also elect an “expanded standard possession schedule” where their possession goes from the time school lets out until the next time school starts.


If one parent has primary possession, the other parent will pay child support. In Texas, child support is calculated according to certain specific guidelines based on the paying-parent’s income. For example, one child is 20% of after-tax income, while 2 children increases that to 25%. Courts only look at up to $7,500 of a parent’s net income, so for two kids, the maximum amount of child support would be $1,875 per month, unless a child has special needs.

Even if the parents agree to a schedule with exactly equal possession, the court will still order the higher-earning parent to pay child support, however, they’ll usually offset it with credit for what the other parent earns.

Rights and Duties

This last issue has to do with decision making for the children. It includes things like who can make decisions regarding a child’s education, mental health treatment, invasive surgery, and more. The right that’s usually most fought over is which parent has the right to designate the child’s primary residence.

These rights can be assigned to one parent exclusively, to each parent independently during their times of possession, or can require the agreement of both parents.

This video was intended as a quick overview of the child issues in a Texas divorce. It is not intended as legal advice. If you have specific questions, please contact me at 972-769-2727 to set up a consultation.