Family law judges in Texas and around the country generally consider two factors very carefully before making decisions dealing with child custody and visitation. The first of these considerations is how to serve the best interests of the children involved. The judge will usually then factor in which of the parents has acted as the child's primary care provider.
This is an important question because many studies have found that the emotional bonds forged with primary caregivers can greatly help children to cope with stress and are important to their psychological health. Judges may look at factors such as who prepared the child's meals and helped them with their school homework when determining which parent has acted as the primary caregiver. It should be noted that making these decisions can be extremely difficult.
When both parents have spent considerable time with the child in question, judges may settle matters by turning to the best interests doctrine. This allows additional factors, such as the wishes of the child and the stability of the parents' employment and living arrangements, to be taken into consideration. Alcohol consumption, drug use and other forms of antisocial behavior will also be looked at. It is unlikely that a parent with serious substance abuse issues will be awarded custody even if they have acted as their child's primary caregiver.
A family law attorney may seek to avoid resolving child custody disputes in court because of the costs involved and the uncertainty of the outcome. They may also be aware that protracted legal battles of this kind can leave both parents and their children emotionally scarred. Attorneys may seek to resolve these issues by reminding parents that the interests of the child should come first and urging them to look for common ground that could serve as the foundation for an amicable settlement.