There are many terms related to joint custody, and it can be confusing to understand what each of them means – especially when they often differ from state to state. In Texas, the term “joint custody” is not used. Instead, custody is known as “conservatorship.”  A conservatorship is either a “sole managing conservatorship” (SMC) or “joint managing conservatorship” (JMC). A JMC is what Texans who are in the middle of custody matters know as “joint custody.” A conservator is the parent who possesses conservatorship. In a Texas joint-custody situation, both parents are conservators.

When you have conservatorship, you have the privilege to oversee legal, lifestyle, and everyday decisions concerning your child. These decisions include:

  • Where the child goes to school;
  • What religion the child worships;
  • What sports the child engages in;
  • How the child reaches his or her doctors’ appointments;
  • What food the child eats;
  • Whether the child obtains medical care; and
  • Any other parenting decisions.

When both parents have JMC, or joint custody, they both can make decisions. These decisions are frequently made together. However, courts might draw lines to distinguish between joint decisions and separate ones. For example, one parent might be granted exclusive power over academic decisions. 

In making any decisions, the court examines the child’s best interest. The complicated segment concerning a JMC is that when a judge makes both parents joint managing conservators, it might not indicate that both will have equivalent custody and access to the child. That gets determined in an individual visitation schedule known as a standard possession order (SPO). This only occurs in Texas, in situations that other states view as joint physical custody.

Obtaining a Joint Managing Conservatorship in Texas

If you reside in the same home as or are married to the other parent of your child, you now have joint custody. Parents split the rights and obligations of parenthood in the customary two-parent home, and the law does not interfere. If you are separated or reside in an individual home from the other parent of the child, you might already possess a JMC, or joint custody. In many instances, Texas law defaults to a JMC plan. The law supposes that a child must have both parents in his or her life, and attempts to keep it that way. 

The only way that you will not possess joint custody is if the other parent is given an SMC, or sole custody, in court. A parent could normally obtain sole custody in extremely critical circumstances. A parent might be given sole custody if the other parent is:

  • Violent,
  • A drug addict,
  • Incarcerated or a patient in a mental hospital,
  • Absent from the life of his or her child, or
  • Is otherwise unsafe to have in the life of his or her child.

What Factors Do Texas Courts Use in Granting Joint Custody in Texas?

The Texas Family Code stresses that Texas public policy is to guarantee that children will have repeated and continuous interaction with parents who have demonstrated the capacity to proceed in the child’s best interest, if that the parent can offer a secure, stable, and peaceful atmosphere for the child. In addition, Texas family law declares that its public policy is to urge parents to share in the rights and obligations of looking after their child following his or her parents’ separation or marital dissolution. 

As such, courts are inclined to start with the assumption that parents ought to share in parental obligations. However, what factors are most significant in deciding how joint custody orders are generated? Most importantly, the court only grants joint custody if it is in the best interest of the child. That is the main criterion. The court will also think about the parent’s capacity to converse with the other parent to look after their child and resolve arguments that might occur, in addition to domestic-violence incidents that could lead to one parent not getting joint custody.

What is Joint Legal Custody?

Joint legal custody is also known as legal custody or shared parental responsibility. In this custody situation, both parents make decisions regarding issues that might have a considerable influence on the lives of their children, such as where a child should go to school, the primary care doctor or therapist for the child, and medical treatments. Both parents are also capable of accessing their children’s records like education, health, and so on. According to sole physical custody arrangements, joint legal custody has been understood to have advantageous effects on children, unlike sole legal custody. In most states, it is the default alternative or is, in any case, favored over sole legal custody. In these states, sole legal custody is given when joint legal custody is not in the best interest of the child.

When parents collaborate to make important decisions for their child, the child eventually benefits. Frequent communication among the child and his or her parents aids in preventing isolation and other mental matters that could originate from a sense of loss after a divorce or separation. This permits a child to feel important and loved by both parents. Children who observe their parents interacting constructively, as joint legal custody demands, learn to find the middle ground and work through arguments. A child is more likely to have strong self-esteem if his or her parents can work together. Sharing legal custody can ease parenting burdens as well. Having the feedback of the other parent in an arduous decision can be acceptable.


Unlike other states, joint custody in Texas is somewhat complex. It is called joint managing conservatorship, which leads to a totally new set of laws to follow. However, it is somewhat theoretically similar. Joint legal conservatorship does not imply the time both parents spend separately with the child, but instead the rights they have for making decisions concerning their child like health care, academic, and legal choices.  No matter where you file a custody suit in the U.S., it is normally decided in the best interest of the child. That is the most important thing.