Joint custody in Texas often involves heated negotiations in divorce cases and other family law matters. Moreover, it’s one of the main areas of confusion for parents as they draw distinctions between it and sole custody.
At times, this confusion stems from the terminology used in Texas law. Without a legal background, though, it’s easy for these concepts to perplex anyone. To make matters worse, custody issues often intertwine with child support and visitation rights. Since these encompass another set of laws, a little confusion is understandable.
However, when it concerns your child, there’s no room for confusion or misconceptions. You need to ensure your decisions are rooted in the child’s best interests, especially when it comes to custody and visitation.
Instead of putting your rights as a parent at risk, it’s important to work with a trusted family law attorney. When you have an advocate on your side, you have someone to protect your rights. Below, we cover some of the basics of joint custody to help you navigate these matters more confidently.
Custody Laws and Terminology
As you explore joint custody in Texas, it’s a good idea to understand the terminology of Texas law. The family law statutes in Texas use specific language as it concerns minor children in family cases. Here are a few of the basic definitions to know.
What the average person refers to as child custody, the law states as “conservatorship.” As such, it refers to parents as conservators instead of “custodial parents.”
A managing conservator has the power to make vital decisions that concern the health and welfare of the child. When only one parent has these responsibilities, they are the sole managing conservator.
Joint custody in Texas is known as “joint managing conservatorship.”
Access refers to visitation with your child. At times, you might hear people refer to this as parenting time or possession. Even with shared custody, the child has a primary residence for practical purposes.
This means the custody agreement defines the non-residential parent as a noncustodial parent or possessory conservator. Access grants them specific periods of time to spend with their child.
Best Interests of the Child
In divorce proceedings and custody agreements, you often hear decisions refer to the best interests of the child. Every decision made about conservatorship and access follows the Texas statute regarding the child’s best interests.
There are a few factors that influence this.
- Any danger the child might face, such as direct or witnessing abuse
- The emotional and physical needs of the child
- Parents’ ability to maintain and support the child’s relationship with the other parent
- Stability of each parent’s lifestyle, work, and home life
An array of other factors play a role in this. In order to understand your situation, it’s often beneficial to consult with a civil litigation attorney.
Joint Custody in Texas: An Overview
As with other states, Texas family law operates with the presumption that both parents deserve joint custody. In Texas, this gives each parent the following rights.
- Impact important decisions regarding the child’s health, welfare, and care
- Attain information on the child’s dental, medical, and psychological care
- Discuss any form of care or issues with healthcare providers
- Consent to any necessary care – dental, medical, surgical
- Access the child’s educational records to review status, performance, discipline, and relevant matters
- Weigh in on the child’s participation in sports, religion, and other activities
With shared custody, the court specifies what rights the parents have together and separately. Moreover, it lays out situations in which one parent makes decisions. As stated above, the standard of the child’s best interests applies to the specifics of joint custody in Texas.
Additionally, courts often encourage parents to come up with their own agreement on custody. So long as it meets the best interests of the child, there’s a good chance the judge approves it. When parents cannot reach an agreement, the matter goes to a custody hearing.
Joint custody does not exist in a bubble. As such, there are other issues that impact it. Moreover, it impacts a plethora of other decisions.
For instance, consider the parent with possessory conservatorship. Custody agreements require a separate schedule that maps out their parenting time and the details of visitation. The court refers to this as the Standard Possession Order.
Additionally, no matter how the parents reach the custody agreement, they have to address child support. The non-residential parent has to pay for this. In Texas, the statutes establish guidelines that factor in the child’s needs, expenses, and the parents’ income.
Is Joint Custody Right for Your Family?
Once you have a basic understanding of how joint custody in Texas works, consider whether it’s right for your child. There are benefits and disadvantages in any situation. Let’s take a look at them here.
Benefits of Joint Custody
- Reduced stress through shared responsibility
- In amicable separations, co-parenting may have a positive impact on the child’s life.
Disadvantages of Shared Custody
- The child moves between two homes.
- In strained relationships, it has the potential to negatively impact the child.
- Separate homes mean two of everything, which can cause stress and confusion.
When Is Joint Custody a Good Idea?
- When both parents have the capacity to communicate without aggression
- If the parents have a history of active involvement in the child’s life
- When both parents worked amicably in the past
- If both parents are readily available and able to stay present
Note: Joint custody sounds good at first to many parents. However, in any situation that involves emotional or physical harm, joint custody is not in the best interest of the child.
Schedule a Case Evaluation with a Family Law Attorney
Now that you have a better understanding of joint custody in Texas, it’s a good idea to consult an attorney. Even when the situation is amicable, legal agreements are binding. With an advocate on your side, you have someone to navigate the subtleties and details that impact your life.
Moreover, you have someone to help you map out your preferences for access and child support. This often complicates issues even in an amicable separation. If you try to represent yourself, you might unknowingly give up essential parental rights.
Trust the attorneys at Nguyen & Chen to protect your rights. As a full-service law firm, we handle cases from personal injury to family law and corporate law. Schedule a consultation with our team today.