Facing a child custody battle with your child’s other parent can be intimidating and extremely frustrating.
While some families are able to get through a divorce, even with children from the marriage, with few problems, it is more common for divorcing spouses to disagree about some terms and to have trouble reaching an agreement when it comes to child custody.
Parents should know that, even if you start out in a contentious child custody battle, there are many ways to make an agreement for joint custody in Texas work.
We will tell you more about how joint custody in Texas works, including information about joint physical custody and visitation.
Learning More About Joint Custody in Texas Family Law
Custody in Texas is not the legal term you will see in the Texas Family Code. Instead, under Texas law (Texas Family Code § 153.001 et seq.), the court uses the term “conservatorship” to discuss custody, and the terms “possession and access” when it comes to parenting time and visitation.
Parents in Texas should know that it is the public policy of the state to ensure that both parents spend time with their children and participate in the child’s upbringing unless there is a clear reason that doing so would not be in the best interests of the child.
When parents have joint physical custody, the custodial parent is typically known as the “managing conservator” while the noncustodial parent is known as the “possessory conservatory.” It is important to know these terms in order to understand how joint custody works in Texas.
Factors Used By Texas Courts in Awarding Joint Custody in Texas
What factors does a Texas court use when deciding whether to award joint custody?
As we highlighted above, the Texas Family Code emphasizes that the state’s public policy is:
“To assure that children will have frequent and continuing contact with parents who have shown the ability to act in the best interest of the child” as long as the parent can “provide a safe, stable, and nonviolent environment for the child.”
Texas family law also states that its public policy is to “encourage parents to share in the rights and duties of raising their child after the parents have separated or dissolved their marriage.”
As such, courts tend to begin with the presumption that parents should share in parental duties. But what factors are most important in determining how joint custody orders are created?
First and most significantly, the court only awards joint custody if it is in the best interest of the child. That is the prevailing standard.
The court will also consider the parents’ ability to communicate with one another in order to raise their child and to solve disputes that may arise, as well as incidents of domestic violence that could result in one parent not receiving joint custody.
When parents have joint physical custody of the child, the court seeks to make it a truly even child custody split. In order to do so, the court typically relies on what is known as a “standard possession order.”
Sharing Custody with a Standard Possession Order
What is a standard possession order? When parents reside 100 miles or less from one another, the court typically turns to what is known as a standard possession order. This outlines the schedule for sharing custody of the minor child.
The standard possession order seeks to streamline shared parenting situations to ensure that there is little confusion about custody schedules and that both parents spend a significant amount of time with the child. In general, the standard possession order says that the possessory conservator gets:
- Weekends on the first, third, and fifth Friday of every month (the managing conservator gets the other weekends);
- Thursday evenings;
- Every other spring vacation;
- Shared summer vacation; and
- Split holidays.
The standard possession order aims to make it so that parents equally split time, including holidays. There are some exceptions to the standard possession order as we have described it above.
When the parents reside more than 100 miles away from one another, depending upon their exact location, the standard possession order can look different.
Then, in cases where the child is especially young, the possession order can consider the particular needs of the child, the child’s necessary routine, and the role of each parent as a caregiver during the early years of childhood.
Developing a Parenting Plan for Texas Joint Custody
Another way in which a family can end up with a distinctive possession order is when the parents develop an agreed-upon parenting plan.
With an agreed parenting plan, the parents can develop a schedule in which they share parenting time with the child. The court needs to say that the terms are in fact in the best interests of the child, and if they are not, the court can require the parties to submit a revised parenting plan.
Benefits and Limitations of Joint Custody Texas
There are benefits and limitations to joint custody in Texas. On the one hand, the child gets to spend a meaningful amount of time with both of his or her parents and to benefit from the parenting of both parties. However, joint custody and shared parenting can be difficult in situations where the parents do not get along as well as either of them would like.
Relocation and Modifications of Joint Physical Custody
Parenting plans can include provisions for modifying joint physical custody.
Otherwise, modifications typically require either a material and substantial change in circumstances for one of the parents, or a situation in which a child is at least 12 years old and wants to have the possession order modified.
A Texas Child Custody Attorney Can Help With Your Case
When you have questions or concerns about custody in Texas, it is extremely important to speak with an experienced Texas child custody lawyer as soon as you can. Our firm is committed to helping parents in Texas achieve a joint custody arrangement that is in the best interests of the child and allows both parents to participate in the upbringing of the child. Contact the Law Office of Ben Carrasco PLLC for more information about the services we provide to families in Texas.