A question we get asked frequently is whether a client or potential client can get “joint custody” of a child. The term “joint custody” is NOT a term that has legal significance under the Texas Family Code. The language in the family code that does use the word “joint” is “joint managing conservator,” and that doesn’t mean what most people think it means. This blog post is going to explain the difference in the two terms.
What is Joint Custody?
In Texas, we don’t use the term “custody” to describe the time parents spend with their children. We use “possession and access” to describe what most people think of when they use the word custody. When people use the term joint custody they typically are speaking of a 50/50 possession and access schedule. For more information on what that may look like and what that means look here: What Does 50/50 Custody Mean. The long and short of that blog post is that there is no 50/50 possession and access schedule listed in the Texas Family Code and that there are multiple “equal” possession schedules that courts use.
What is a Joint Managing Conservator?
The term conservator describes a legal relationship a person has with a child in Texas. It is not the same thing as a possession and access schedule. The presumption in Texas is that biological parents should be named joint managing conservators of their children regardless of what their possession and access schedule is going to look like. Section 153.135 of the Texas Family Code makes it clear that having equal periods of physical possession of and access to the child is not the same as being a joint managing conservator. Most people in Texas are named joint managing conservators of their children while the majority of possession schedules are not completely equal.
Joint Managing Conservatorship does not mean that the parties are going to have completely equal rights and duties when it comes to the child either. The court has discretion when naming parents joint managing conservators to limit rights and duties. Joint Managing Conservator is just a title given to a party, it does not necessarily say anything about the time a person is entitled to spend with a child or the extent of the relationship they have with the child.
Why Does this all Matter?
When dealing with any legal matter using proper terminology matters. If a term has a specific meaning under the family code it’s important to understand that when using that term in an order that the meaning under the family code is going to be the meaning it is interpreted as having. If you have a question regarding a family law matter contact Guest and Gray and we can set up a time for a free consult to discuss your matter further.