Understanding the Basics of Joint Custody in Texas

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Joint Custody in Texas

Child custody can be one of the most emotionally-charged issues that parents face during a divorce or separation.

As parents grapple with the many changes that come with ending a relationship, they must also make decisions about how to best provide for their children.

In Texas, like many other states, the court system has recognized that, in many cases, children benefit from having both parents play a substantial role in their lives.

As a result, joint custody has become a common arrangement.

This article delves into the intricacies of joint custody in Texas, shedding light on what it means, how it is determined, and the rights of parents under this system.

What is Joint Custody?

At its core, joint custody refers to a legal arrangement in which both parents share the rights and responsibilities of raising their child or children.

In Texas, the term that’s officially used for this type of custody arrangement is “joint managing conservatorship” (JMC).

However, it’s essential to note that joint custody does not automatically imply that both parents spend an equal amount of time with the child.

There are two primary facets of joint custody: joint legal custody and joint physical custody.

Joint Legal Custody

This deals with the decision-making rights regarding the child’s upbringing. Parents with joint legal custody will share the responsibility of making important decisions about their child’s education, health, and welfare.

Joint Physical Custody

This concerns the actual physical living arrangements of the child. It doesn’t necessarily mean a 50/50 split in time. Instead, it’s about ensuring that both parents have substantial and frequent periods of possession of the child.

How is Joint Custody Determined in Texas?

In Texas, the courts prioritize the best interests of the child when determining custody arrangements. When both parents are deemed fit, the court often presumes that joint custody is in the child’s best interest. However, several factors influence this decision:

The child’s preferences

Depending on the child’s age and maturity, the court might consider their desires when making custody decisions.

Each parent’s ability to encourage a positive relationship between the child and the other parent

The courts look favorably upon parents who are willing to foster a relationship between the child and the other parent.

The health, safety, and welfare of the child

If there are any concerns about abuse or neglect, it can impact the court’s decision regarding custody.

The geographic proximity of the parents

If parents live far apart, a 50/50 physical custody arrangement might not be feasible.

Rights and Duties Under Joint Custody

Under a JMC, parents may have shared or individual rights and duties. Some of the typical rights and duties include:

  • Making decisions about the child’s education.
  • Consent to medical and dental care.
  • Access to medical, dental, and educational records.
  • The duty to inform the other parent of significant information regarding the child’s health, education, and welfare.

In many JMCs, while rights are joint, the right to designate the primary residence of the child might be given to one parent, which affects child support calculations and the actual amount of time each parent spends with the child.

Modifying Joint Custody

Life is unpredictable. Circumstances change, and what might have been a suitable arrangement at the time of the divorce or separation might not remain so forever.

In Texas, to modify a joint custody order, the parent requesting the change must demonstrate that there has been a significant change in circumstances since the original order and that the proposed modification is in the best interest of the child.

Some common reasons for modification include:

  • Relocation of one parent.
  • A change in the child’s needs.
  • Evidence of abuse or neglect.


Joint custody in Texas, or Joint Managing Conservatorship, prioritizes the best interests of the child and often aims to allow both parents to play a significant role in the child’s life.

By understanding the nuances and implications of joint custody, parents can better navigate this challenging aspect of separation and divorce, ensuring that their child’s well-being remains at the forefront.

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