Understanding joint custody in Texas: A comprehensive guide

Interested in finding out more about how you and your co-parent will share custody after a divorce or child custody case? Then you have come to the right place. The Law Office of Bryan Fagan is here to provide you with information that details the nature of joint custody. What it is. How it relates to your family? Finally, how to make it work for you and your family. Along the way, we will share with you some helpful hints on how to avoid problems down the road. Ready to step into the important topic of joint custody? Let’s go!

Joint custody- an overview for Texas parents

Physical custody is the first topic to discuss when it comes to joint custody overall. Physical custody refers to being in the physical possession of your children. In a practical sense, this is spending time with your children and being able to direct their behavior. Not being in physical possession of your children does not mean that you have no rights concerning them. However, what it does mean is that the parent in physical possession has the primary decision-making capability on several topics. For this reason, parents work hard to negotiate for physical custody within a child custody or divorce case.

Legal custody refers to the ability to make decisions on behalf of your children. After your divorce or child custody case, you will likely have legal custody of your children. However, the extent to which you have rights and duties concerning your children is determined by the negotiations between you and your co-parent. When the two of you are not able to come to an agreement on issues related to the children a court will intercede. Courts make decisions on behalf of your children by looking at their best interests.

The best interests determination attempts to consider the needs of your children now and in the future. Their physical safety, emotional well-being, their education, and development are all relevant factors. Parents are presumed to make decisions that are in the best interest of their children. Therefore, a court will accept arrangements and negotiated outcomes of you and your co-parent to the greatest extent possible. Contrary to what many parents believe, you and your co-parent have the ultimate decision-making authority in a case. It is not necessarily true that you and your co-parent have a judge make decisions on behalf of your child. This only occurs when parents are unable to settle a case themselves.

Joint custody as the default custody arrangement in a Texas family law case

The state of Texas believes that it is in your child’s best interests to have a relationship with both of their parents. Therefore, parents are typically named as joint managing conservators of their children. Being the joint managing conservator of your child means that you share decision-making authority with your co-parent. Additionally, you share the responsibility of raising your child, as well. Obligations in a joint managing conservatorship are to look out for your child’s health, and well-being and to provide an education.

Many parents agree that joint managing conservatorship is in the best interest of their child. However, it is also possible for you and your parents to disagree on this. You may have many reasons to disagree that this arrangement is in the best interests of your child. In a situation like that, you and your attorney would work together to justify not having a joint managing conservatorship arranged in your case. 

A sole managing conservatorship stands in comparison to a joint managing conservatorship. Under a sole managing conservatorship, your co-parent and you would still share many rights and duties. However, a sole managing conservator of your child would have superior physical and legal custody rights. The possessory conservator would hold some rights and duties to your child but not as many as under a joint managing conservatorship.

Looking back on your child’s life to help determine their future

If you watch any commercials on television for investments or brokerage firms, one of the things that these entities will tell you is that past performance is not an indicator of future returns. You cannot simply look at the returns of a particular investment to determine their future likelihood of success. Many financial people laugh at this proposition. There are arguments to be made that the best way to judge an investment’s chance of success in the future is to look at its past. In some ways, this is all you can look at.

Things function like this to a certain extent in a family law case, as well. If a court is forced to decide regarding child custody circumstances it does so based upon the role you and your spouse have played in the life of your child to that point. For example, the parent who has been the primary caretaker for your child would need to continue in that role in many cases. The reason for that is that courts are hesitant to change living arrangements for a child unless necessary.

What does this mean for you? In a practical sense, it means that the relationship that your child has had with each parent will continue after the family law case. The parent who has been the primary caretaker of your child to that point will continue to act in this way. That doesn’t mean that the non-primary conservator Is not a good parent or worthy caretaker. All it means is that the other parent has had the opportunity to care for the child on a more consistent basis throughout the child’s life.

Co-parenting is a necessity

Working together with your co-parent on matters related to your children is not just something that would be nice to do. Rather, it is essential for the well-being of your child. If you thought that co-parenting was difficult while living in the same house as your spouse or co-parent imagine doing so from a separate household. As you transition out of the family law case some realities need to be looked at in detail. Those realities involved your child and their best interest. The state of Texas believes that your child’s best interests are served when you and your co-parent can work together on issues related to their life.

Many parents think about how nice it will be to no longer need to have a relationship with their co-parent after the family law case. After years of enduring this person and your disagreements with them, it will be nice to be able to move on. You can focus your time on yourself, your work, and most importantly your children. The family law case marks the end of your relationship with your co-parent, right? As we are about to see, if the family law case marks the end of your relationship with your co-parent then it will be your child who suffers the most.

The state of Texas believes that your child will do the best when you and your co-parent have a relationship. That relationship does not need to be one of friendship but does need to be one of courtesy. Working with your co-parent on matters related to your children is what the dynamics should be. Again, you do not need to be best friends with your co-parent. Rather, being able to show respect to him or her it’s all the relationship needs to center around.

Developing a relationship with your co-parent after the family law case

Maintaining a relationship with your co-parent after the family law case is difficult. This is one of the most complex relationships that you will ever have. There is so much history between the two of you that working with this person on important matters related to your children will not be easy. How, then, can you approach this subject with humility? Understanding that you do not know everything that there is to know about parenting and nor does your co-parent.

In a word, patience. Being patient with your co-parent solves a lot of the ills that come along with a broken relationship. You need to be patient with yourself as you build this new relationship with your co-parent. It is not a situation where you are building upon the old relationship. Rather, a co-parenting relationship after a divorce or child custody case is a brand new situation. As such, give yourself some grace and allow yourself some room to grow.

Having patience with your co-parent we’ll determine how successful you are in managing this relationship. Force yourself to look at the situation from his or her perspective. This is true in whatever circumstance you find yourself in. Doing this puts you in a position where you must be considerate of him or her. Jumping to conclusions becomes more difficult as growing patience for this person. Along the way, you may learn more about yourself as far as shortcomings of yours.

Primary custody of your child

For most parents, the beginning and end of a joint custody negotiation centers around the primary custody of your child. This means that you are seeking to establish the rights and duties relevant to your son or daughter. Specifically, you seek to be the primary conservator of your child. This means that you have the right to determine the primary residence of your child as well as receive child support. These are two of the most important rights that a parent can have concerning their child.

Look at your history as a parent to determine better what your chances of becoming the primary conservator are. In short, if you have not acted as the primary conservator of your child to this point then it is unlikely that you will be named as the primary conservator of your child thereafter. This does not mean that you should not fight for what you believe in or fight for your child. However, it does mean that you should be realistic with your role in the life of your child.

Keep in mind that just because you are not named primary conservator of your child initially does not mean that you can never be named primary conservator. Rather, in the life of your case, you will have the opportunity to come back and attempt to modify your court orders. Modification occurs when material and substantial changes occur in the life of your child. Additionally, the requested change would need to be in the best interest of your child.

Hiring an attorney for your joint custody case

The attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan believe that any case involving children is important. Your children are the central focus of your life. As a result, being able to put your best foot forward in advocating for them is essential. Therefore, when you proceed with a family law case involving your children it is best to have representation. Let’s spend some time discussing the importance of an attorney in a contested child custody case.

Simply put, an attorney allows you the best possible opportunity to present a case in court that is favorable. Family law attorneys focus their attention on representing people in family law cases. Therefore, being able to have evidence admitted into the record is crucial. The Law Office of Bryan Fagan works with clients every day to build a case that is most favorable to them. This means assessing potential evidence and preparing to offer that evidence into the record of your case.

Offering evidence to the record is not as simple as dropping paperwork on the judge’s desk. Rather, you need to be prepared to have reasons why the evidence is relevant and overcome objections from your opposing party. This is where an attorney excels. Attorneys understand the rules of evidence and how to manage this delicate maneuvering in the courtroom. The difference between having the proper evidence admitted into a case or not can be the difference between winning and losing.

Enforcing a child custody order

After your family law case, a judge will sign a court order that includes all of the settlements of your case. Additionally, any rulings made by the judge will also be considered. The attorneys in your case will work on drafting an order that clearly expresses the nature of your settlement. In addition to the reasons previously stated, having an attorney for your case is important when it comes to drafting court orders, as well.

Having enforceable court orders is important. The entire reason you go to court is to have court orders that can be relied upon in the future. When you do not have enforceable court orders the entirety of your prior case was all for nothing. Rather, you want to focus your attention on winning court orders that are clear, comprehensive, and unambiguous. In that case, you have a situation where you can rely upon those court orders in the future.

When your co-parent does not follow the court orders you may need to file an enforcement case in the future. An enforcement case involves you coming back to court and filing a petition to bring violations of the court order to the attention of the judge. You would cite the specific provisions violated. Next, you would number the violations for the judge. Finally, you may ask the court for a particular form of relief. That form of relief may be monetary, make-up visitation, or even jail time for your co-parent.

Final thoughts on joint custody in Texas 

Ultimately, the two people who stand to benefit your child the most in his or her life are you and your co-parent. Unfortunately, the two people who stand to harm your child the most in their life are also you and your co-parent. The two of you gain the ability to make up your minds about which way you want to go as far as your parenting is concerned. Your willingness to work together on matters related to your children is incredibly important. The more willing you are to work together the better off your child will be.

The first step in that process is to work with an attorney who is well suited to assist you and your family in matters related to child custody. The attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan focus our practice on serving families just like yours. We work within the Texas family courts every day and pride ourselves on providing advocacy for mothers and fathers. Thank you for choosing to spend part of your day with us here on the blog post for the Law Office of Bryan Fagan.

The attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan offer free of charge consultations six days a week in person, over the phone, and via video. These consultations are a great way for you to learn more about the world of Texas family law. Before signing a document or negotiating on a subject you do not know well, contact our office. We look forward to the opportunity of serving you during an important part of your life.

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At the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC, the firm wants to get to know your case before they commit to work with you. They offer all potential clients a no-obligation, free consultation where you can discuss your case under the client-attorney privilege. This means that everything you say will be kept private and the firm will respectfully advise you at no charge. You can learn more about Texas divorce law and get a good idea of how you want to proceed with your case.

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