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Family Law


September 19, 2022


Equal Parenting: Who Is the Custodial Parent?

who is the custodial parent in 5050 custody

Most parents have little experience with the legal system before working through their child custody issues and find the terminology of child custody perplexing.

But it’s critical to understand certain terms when going through a child custody case. This is true whether you’re in the process of divorcing or determining parental rights with an ex-partner.

Definition of Custodial Parent

In child custody cases, the custodial parent is the person who:

  • Has sole or primary physical custody of the child.
  • Parents the child most of the time.

Often, the custodial parent is assigned through a court order. The child’s primary home is usually with the custodial parent, who provides for their daily needs.

A mother or father is made a custodial parent when the family law court orders them to have sole or primary physical custody. An individual may also be a custodial parent if other caregivers (including the child’s other parent) aren’t present in the child’s life.

The designation also has financial implications. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) permits custodial parents to claim their child as a dependent on their yearly tax returns. The other parent will typically be unable to claim the child.

Joint Custody: Who's the Custodial Parent?

In many child custody cases, the two parents share caregiving responsibilities. If the parents are sharing custody, the judge may still assign the role of “custodial” or “primary” parent to one of the two.

Ordinarily, the custodial parent will be the one the child lives with most days. In cases where the two parents share responsibilities 50/50, there will be no custodial parent.

But a custody agreement may still provide one parent with final decision-making authority. This would be necessary for instances where no agreement is possible.

Joint custody court orders often determine which parent is permitted to claim the child on their taxes. If the custody order doesn’t address this issue, the parents should assess the requirements for claiming dependency through the IRS.

What's the Difference Between Physical and Legal Custody?

sharing custody

Many parents are uncertain about the distinction between physical and legal custody.

Legal custody provides a parent with the right to make certain decisions that will affect the child’s well-being and quality of life. Physical custody, on the other hand, is given to the parent with whom the child spends most of their time. The parent with physical custody is responsible for meeting the physical and emotional needs of the child daily.

Physical and legal custody can be held by either one or both parents. When one parent holds parenting responsibilities, it’s known as “sole” custody. When both are involved, they hold “joint” custody.

Child custody may be assigned in any of the following combinations:

  • Joint physical custody
  • Sole physical custody
  • Joint legal custody
  • Sole legal custody

With joint physical custody, both parents visit and spend time with the child on a regular basis. Conversely, sole physical custody means that only one individual sees the child most of the time.

Joint legal custody means that both parents must work together when making decisions that might significantly impact the well-being of the child. Some of the most common issues about which parents with joint legal custody must make decisions include:

  • Religious training, education, and participation
  • Schooling and general education
  • Major medical questions

When one parent holds sole legal custody, they have the authority to decide on questions of the child’s well-being without consulting the other parent.

What Are the Custodial Parent's Responsibilities?

Parents with custodial rights have certain daily responsibilities to their child or children. These may include:

  • Ensuring that the child attends school and doctor’s appointments.
  • Helping a child with school projects and homework.
  • Providing clothing, food, and reliable shelter.
  • Ensuring visitation between the child and the other parent, if applicable.
  • Providing transportation around sporting events and other extracurricular activities.
  • Ensuring that the child is clean and maintains daily hygiene.

How Do I Become the Custodial Parent?

50 50 custody texas

The steps for becoming a custodial parent depend on your interpersonal relationship with the child's other parent. If you’re going through a divorce with the other person, you have the right to work out a custody agreement.

If you’re unable to reach an agreement, you can petition the court for a child custody hearing. These hearings typically result in court-ordered child custody arrangements.

If you’re not married to the child's other parent, you must petition the courts for custody. No matter your situation, you’ll need to ask the court for sole custody to become a custodial parent. You cannot be listed as the custodial parent with equal shared parenting responsibilities.

When parents agree on a custody arrangement, the court will be more likely to approve it. Still, the ultimate standard by which family courts operate is the well-being of children.

The judge may order a custody evaluation. This is a report developed by a court-appointed professional to ensure the appropriateness of parental responsibilities. Regardless of the circumstances, the family court must approve child custody arrangements.

Do Courts Prefer Joint Custody Arrangements?

Family court judges usually prefer joint custody arrangements. This is because joint custody permits both parents to be involved in the child's rearing and upbringing.

However, judges always consider the best interests of the child. For example, if two parents decide to relocate a significant distance apart, the judge may not award joint custody.

If one parent has a documented history of domestic abuse, they’ll be unlikely to obtain custody. While an agreement between the parents is an important factor, the well-being of the children is the highest priority.

50/50 Custody in Texas

Under Texas law, you may be able to develop a 50/50 parental responsibility agreement with the child’s other parent. To do so, you’ll need to develop an equal shared parenting plan to which you both agree. Even in these cases, the judge must approve the parenting plan.

If you’re unable to agree to this type of plan with the child's other caregiver, you can legally fight for this type of arrangement.

You’ll need to show that you provide regular care for the child. This may include:

  • Feeding
  • Providing clothing
  • Participating in school activities
  • Providing transportation

In the case of very young children, it can be very challenging for fathers to secure a 50/50 custody arrangement in Texas. Still, you shouldn’t be afraid to pursue this option legally if it’s in your child's best interests.

Split custody laws in Texas are complex and often confusing. If you’re wondering who is the custodial parent in 50/50 custody cases, reach out to a qualified family law attorney.

A recent law known as Texas House Bill 803 formally recommends a 50/50 approach to child custody arrangements. This equal parenting bill is an important part of recent changes to family law in the state of Texas.

Who Pays Child Support in Joint Custody in Texas?

50-50 custody requirements

It's important for divorcing parents to determine the best-case scenario for their children’s futures, but they must also decide what’s financially tenable given their circumstances.

In Texas, family court judges determine which parent pays child support. Even when parents are sharing custody, the court may designate which parents have primary custody.

Parents with joint custody arrangements still pay child support. The overseeing judge will provide details of the approved child support arrangement.

Typically, the non-custodial parent provides child support payments to the custodial parent. These support payments are intended to assist the custodial parent with purchasing necessities for the child.

What Factors Influence the Calculation of Child Support?

Texas family courts determine the appropriate amount of child support payments in each case. To do so, they review many relevant circumstances and factors, including:

  • The basic needs of the child.
  • Preferences for children 12 years of age or older.
  • Parental fitness.
  • Stability in the home.
  • The child's relationship with each parent.
  • Whether siblings should live together.
  • Each person's parenting skills.

When the overseeing judge writes a custody arrangement, they’ll calculate the amount of child support owed.

You may be wondering, “What happens if you don’t pay child support in Texas?”. In short, there are significant legal repercussions that can make things much harder for the parent in violation.

Skilled Legal Representation in Custody Matters

If you’re involved in a legal child custody battle, don’t give up before speaking with a family law attorney. In the state of Texas, there are legal options for parents seeking a fair child custody arrangement.

Whether you’re divorcing or were never married, the knowledgeable legal professionals at Family Law of North Texas can help. Contact us for a legal consultation to review the facts of your child custody case.

Contact Us Today For a Free Consultation

Family Law of North Texas attorneys are ready to help you with any difficult life situation.

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