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What Is Joint Custody?

father enjoying custody of daughter

Questions about custody often come up in Texas divorce cases, paternity proceedings, and other family law matters, and one of the biggest areas of confusion among parents is the distinction between joint and sole custody. Some of the misconceptions stem from the terminology used under state law, but there are many other legal concepts that can be perplexing if you do not have a background in law. Custody issues are also closely intertwined with visitation and child support, which encompass yet another set of laws. 

When it comes to your child, you cannot allow confusion and misconceptions to guide your decision-making with respect to custody and visitation. Instead of putting your parental rights at risk, you need an experienced Houston child custody attorney to protect your interests. Still, a summary of the relevant laws and legal concepts can help you understand the basics about joint custody in Texas.

Understanding Terminology Of Custody Laws

Even before getting to the issue of joint custody, it is important to review the terms used in Texas family law  statutes when it comes to minor children in family law cases. Some basic definitions include:

Conservatorship: This term is what you know as child custody, so parents are referred to as conservators instead of custodial parents. A managing conservator is someone who has the power to make important decisions regarding the child’s health and welfare. When only one parent has these rights and responsibilities, he or she is the sole managing conservator. Joint managing conservatorship covers the concept of joint custody as described below. 

Access: Also referred to as possession or parenting time, access means visitation with the child. Even when both parents share joint custody, the child will typically primarily reside with one parent for convenience and practical purposes. The nonresidential parent, also termed a possessory conservator or noncustodial parent, will be granted specific periods of possession to spend time with the child.

Best Interests of the Child: All decisions regarding conservatorship and access are determined in accordance with the Texas statute on the child’s best interests. Some of the factors include:

  • The child’s emotional and physical needs;
  • Each parent’s stability in terms of lifestyle and home life;
  • Any danger to the child, such as suffering or witnessing abuse;
  • Each parent’s ability to maintain and support the child’s relationship with the other; and,
  • Many others.

Overview Of Joint Custody In Texas

As in other US states, Texas family law presumes that both parents should be named as joint managing conservators in divorce or paternity cases. Each parent will have the right to:

  • Make important decisions regarding the health, medical care, and welfare of the child;
  • Obtain information regarding the child’s medical, dental, psychological care, and discuss these issues with healthcare providers;
  • Consent to medical, dental, and surgical care;
  • Access information regarding educational records, and to address status, performance, school discipline, and related topics with educators; and,
  • Decide the child’s participation in religion, sports, and other activities.

When both parents have joint custody, the court will specify what rights and responsibilities each parent enjoys together – and whether there are any areas where one parent makes decisions. The child’s best interests standard applies regarding the specifics of a joint managing conservatorship. Note that parents are allowed, and even encouraged, to come up with an agreement on conservatorship. If it suits the child’s best interests, the judge will likely approve it. If you cannot agree, the matter of custody will go to a hearing.

Associated Concepts and Roles In The Child’s Life

The concept of joint conservatorship does not exist in a bubble, so these issues impact many other areas. As mentioned, the parent with possessory conservatorship will have parenting time, and visitation details are included in a separate schedule known as the Standard Possession Order. Plus, regardless of whether joint custody is determined by agreement or hearing, parents must address child support to be paid by the nonresidential parent. Texas has established statutory guidelines that focus on income, expenses, the child’s needs, and other factors.

Set Up A Consultation With An Experienced Texas Child Custody Lawyer

This information may be useful in explaining how joint custody works, but there are many other details and subtleties you need to know thoroughly in a real-life situation. Plus, the issue of custodianship also impacts access, visitation, and child support, further complicating the underlying issues. You give up key parental rights if you try to represent yourself, so trust our lawyers at The Ramos Law Group, PLLC to advocate on your behalf. To set up a consultation with a member of our team, please contact our offices in Houston, TX today.