When Texas parents of young children decide to divorce, the issue of child custody will naturally be foremost in their minds. Some of them might have grown up with little contact with their fathers if their parents divorced because courts frequently showed bias toward giving mothers custody in previous generations. The philosophy of shared parenting or co-parenting has begun to replace old fashioned notions about child rearing. Some parents know from the beginning that they want joint custody, and activists and lawmakers in more than 20 states are seeking legal reforms to child custody standards.
Fathers' rights groups have pushed strongly for these reforms because men increasingly want to bond with their children and form meaningful relationships. These activists want to establish joint custody as the default to prevent judges from skewing decisions in favor of mothers. Numerous studies in many countries have shown that children benefit from the consistent attention of both their mothers and fathers.
Women's rights groups caution that joint custody could force domestic violence victims to remain under the influence of their abusive former spouses. Most of the proposed bills, however, still allow for a judge to assign sole custody when evidence indicates that shared parenting would not be in the best interest of the children.
In lieu of having a judge make the decision, parents are free to negotiate a child custody and visitation plan on their own. This is often done with the assistance of their respective family law attorneys. It should be noted that the plan will still have to be approved by the court, however.