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.

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Emily Miskel

Judge Emily Miskel was appointed by Texas Governor Greg Abbott as the first judge of the 470th family district court of Collin County, Texas. She graduated from Stanford University and Harvard Law School and she is board certified in family law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. Find Emily on Google+, Facebook, and other social media.

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