When it comes to child custody, every parent wants what they believe is best for their child. And sometimes, that means a bit of compromise (especially if you’d prefer things don’t become overly stressful and contentious). With those facts in mind, how does joint custody work in Texas?

Because obtaining sole custody is often a challenging and even painful process for parents and children alike, many parents agree to share custody of the child through joint custody, known as joint managing conservatorship in Texas.

While joint custody might sound like an appealing option, it’s critical that you weigh all your options. Learn more about how joint custody works in Texas below, then contact a family lawyer at Thiessen Law Firm to discuss your options. 

Joint custody vs. joint conservatorship 

Before we move forward, let’s establish some key facts and phrases. While many people call us asking about custody in Texas, the Texas Family Code does not actually use this term. Instead, Texas law refers to custody as conservatorship. So, when someone who lives in Texas asks “How does joint custody work?” they should actually ask “How does joint conservatorship work?”

Additionally, Texas law uses the terms “possession” and “access” to refer to parenting time and access, respectively. 

While conservatorship and custody mostly mean the same thing, there are certain differences that are important to understand as they relate to Texas family law. While you may have heard that there are different types of custody including legal custody, physical custody, and sole custody, in Texas there is only sole managing conservatorship (sole custody) and joint managing conservatorship (joint custody) with specific modifications outlined in agreed-upon parenting plans

Parenting plans and joint conservatorship

In a Texas joint conservatorship agreement, parents are designated as either the primary joint managing conservator or just a joint managing conservator. If you are deemed the primary joint managing conservator, your home is designated as the child’s primary residence. The other conservator has joint custody of the child but may also have to pay child support to the primary conservator. 

Contrary to popular belief, joint conservatorship does not mean a 50/50 possession split. Texas parents can establish any number of custodial arrangements under a parenting plan, so long as the final agreement is considered to be in the best interests of the child. 

Parenting plans are built around a number of important factors, including:

  • Location
  • Health and physical needs
  • Strength of parent/child relationships
  • Schedules
  • Religious needs/holidays

Is joint conservatorship a good idea? 

Once clients get a general idea of how to answer the question, “How does joint conservatorship work?” the next question parents involved in a child custody battle tend to ask is, “Is joint conservatorship a good idea?” Of course, there are pros and cons to everything, and it’s important to carefully weigh them all. 

Pros of joint conservatorship

  • Both parents share responsibility, which can reduce stress.
  • If the relationship between the parents is not strained, co-parenting can have a positive effect on the child.

Cons of joint conservatorship

  • The child does not have one home. Because of this, they’ll be forced to go back and forth between two homes. 
  • If the relationship between the parents is strained, this state of affairs can negatively affect the child.
  • Separate living situations means two of everything. This can be confusing, expensive, and stressful.

When is joint conservatorship a good idea?

  • If both parents are able to maintain open communication without hostility or aggression. 
  • If both parents have a solid history of being involved in the child’s activities.
  • If both parents have worked together in the past.
  • If both parents are readily present and available.

Remember: Joint custody might sound like a good idea, but if there are harmful physical or emotional issues at play, it might be in the best interest of the child to avoid joint custody. Check out these child custody laws for unmarried parents and these child custody tips for fathers.

What are some common parenting plans?

Parenting plans can be devised by the parents or the court. Here are a few common examples of common parenting plans for parents in a joint conservatorship:

  • Standard Possession Order (SPO): This plan is laid out in the Texas Family Code and used frequently by Courts and Attorneys. This is the typical 1, 3, 5th weekend plus Thursday night and holiday time order.
  • Expanded Possession Order (EPO): This is like the SPO, but with the beginning and ending times starting when school is dismissed and when school begins. It allows parents to have some extra time with their child(ren).
  • 2/2/3 or similar plans: These plans give Parent A the first two days of the week, Parent B the second two days, and then each Parent rotates weekly for the remaining three days. 
  • Alternating weeks, months, or even years: One week with the first parent, the next week with the second parent.
  • Two week splits: The child spends two weeks with the first parent, the next two weeks with the second parent.
  • School year versus summer months: The child spends the majority of the school year with the first parent, then the summer months with the second parent.
  • Week versus weekend: the child spends the majority of the week with the first parent, then a long weekend with the second parent — this could be Monday evening through Friday morning with parent one, Friday night through Monday morning with parent two.

What to include in your parenting plan

If you’re able to agree to 50/50 custody with the other parent, this can be arranged without court intervention (and is ideal). However, there are quite a few details to work out, and it’s important to cover them all. Addressing these issues now can keep you from having to jump unnecessary hurdles in the future.

Here are just a few of the items you will want to cover in your parenting plan:

  • Holiday visitations
  • Dop-offs and pick-ups
  • Finances and taxes (even simple things like who pays for afterschool activities — and check out what happens if a father doesn’t pay child support)
  • Visitation rights for extended family
  • Who makes final decisions in the event of a disagreement

Still wondering, “How does joint conservatorship work?” We can help.

Unless you’ve been to law school, it’s natural not to know the answer to the question, “How does joint custody work?” (or “How does joint conservatorship work?”) But here’s one thing you can be sure of: your joint custody arrangement should be handled with care, and Thiessen Law Firm is the perfect place to turn to for help. 

Thiessen Law Firm’s Taly Thiessen is a leading child custody lawyer in Houston, and she will do whatever it takes to help you get the child custody arrangement that works best for your unique situation.

Call Thiessen Law Firm at 713-864-9000 or request a consultation today.

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