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What Is Joint Custody?

Parents who separate often are confused about how Court custody orders work, and about how those custody orders affect visitation rights. Today's blog post will address the basic terminology of Texas custody rights, and what those rights actually affect possession of and access to children.


Texas law presumes that both parents should be appointed as "joint managing conservators". Both parents sharing the same title does not mean that the children reside with each parent half of the time. Rather, the title simply identifies which rights each parent has. Both parent joint managing conservators have equal rights to access medical and educational records, attend school and extracurricular activities, consent to basic medical treatment, etc. Only, one of the joint managing conservators, however, is typically awarded certain "exclusive" rights that the other parent does not have. These rights include (1) the right to establish the primary residence of the children; (2) the right to make major, invasive medical decisions; (3) the right to make any and all psychiatric and psychological decisions; (4) the right to make educational decisions and (5) the right to receive child support from the other parent. The parent awarded these exclusive rights is commonly referred to as the "primary joint managing conservator. Often, the Court will authorize the primary joint managing conservator to make these decisions only after first consulting with the other parent. In some cases, the Court authorizes certain types of decisions to be made only by agreement of both parents, such as the decision to consent to marriage or enlistment in the military.

A joint managing conservatorship generally works well for most parents who cooperate and communicate regarding the best interest of their children. Children with parents that have a generally positive relationship and are flexible with each other can grow up with fairly good, functional relationships with both parents. Children whose parents are inflexible and hostile toward each other suffer emotionally and have great difficulties later in life.


If a parent can successfully rebut the legal presumption of joint managing conservatorship (often by evidence that the other parent is not involved in the children's lives, is abusive or has a violent criminal history), the Court will appoint one parent as "sole managing conservator" and the other parent as "possessory conservator". Even a possessory conservator will have many of the same rights as the sole managing conservator, and will still be awarded specific periods of possession of and access to the children. If the possessory conservator or non-primary joint managing conservator poses a danger or risk of harm to the children, the Court may order that visitation rights be limited and required to be supervised by a competent adult.

If you have children and are considering separating from the other parent, you don't have to go through the journey alone. To protect the best interest of the children, parents should have competent legal advice and assistance with regard to their custody case. Christiansen Law Firm assists parents as they go through the custody process. The family law attorneys of Christiansen Law Firm have extensive experience in handling custody matters, having represented more than a thousand individuals in family law matters. Contact the offices of Christiansen Law Firm in Houston or San Antonio for additional information.

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