Navigating child custody disputes can be challenging and overwhelming for any parent. Our Texas child custody lawyers understand that custody decisions directly affect your and your child’s life. One common question we get from parents is, “Is Texas a 50/50 custody state?” Below, we discuss the main types of child custody arrangements in Texas. We also address the possibility of a 50/50 custody split.
Understanding the Types of Child Custody in Texas
Before discussing whether Texas is a 50/50 custody state, we want to clarify what custody means. In Texas, the term used for custody is “conservatorship.” Conservatorship refers to the rights and duties of each parent concerning their child.
Physical custody and legal custody are two primary aspects of child custody arrangements. Physical custody refers to where the child lives. Legal custody refers to a parent’s right to make significant decisions on behalf of the child.
Courts make decisions about conservatorship and possession based on the child’s best interests. The court considers a variety of relevant factors. For example, the court may consider the child’s physical and emotional needs, parental abilities, and each parent’s living situation.
There are two main types of conservatorship orders in Texas. These include:
Sole Managing Conservatorship
Under a sole managing conservatorship, one parent has both legal and physical custody of the child. The court may assign sole custody when there is evidence that joint conservatorship would not be in the child’s best interest, possibly due to abuse, neglect, or a history of addiction.
The other parent may have visitation rights. However, they likely will not have the same decision-making rights about the child’s upbringing.
Joint Managing Conservatorship
Texas law presumes that children typically benefit from having both parents involved in their lives. Therefore, in many custody cases, the court will favor a joint managing conservatorship.
Under joint managing conservatorship or joint custody, both parents have the right to make decisions about significant aspects of the child’s life, such as education, healthcare, and religious upbringing.
However, joint custody does not necessarily mean the child’s time is split equally between the parents. In many cases, the child primarily lives with one parent called the custodial parent. The other parent, called the noncustodial parent, will receive visitation rights.
Most child custody orders include a Standard Possession Order (SPO), which outlines a possession or visitation schedule for the noncustodial parent. The standard possession order often gives the noncustodial parent access to the child on the first, third, and fifth weekends of each month, Thursday evenings during the school year, certain holidays, and extended time during summer vacations. However, the SPO may vary depending on how far apart the noncustodial parent lives from the child.
While the SPO is common, it is not mandatory. The court can deviate from it. Additionally, parents can negotiate and agree to a schedule that differs from the SPO, including one that is close to a 50/50 split, if it is in the best interest of the child.
Does Joint Custody Mean 50/50 Custody?
“Joint custody” and “50/50 custody” are often used interchangeably, but these terms are different. Joint custody does not mean 50/50 custody.
One of the most common misconceptions of joint custody is that the parents have equal possession of the child. Under Texas Family Code Section 153.135, the law states that joint custody “does not require the award of equal or nearly equal periods of physical possession of and access to the child to each of the joint conservators.”
A 50/50 custody arrangement involves a child’s parents having joint physical custody and having equal time with the child. While Texas favors joint managing conservatorship, it does not presume that a 50/50 possession model is in the child’s best interest.
Generally, the law presumes that the child’s best interest involves primarily living with one parent and the other parent following a standard possession order or a variation of it. The reason for this arrangement can vary. Factors may include the geographical distance between parents, parents’ work schedules, or any other reason that might make an even physical split impractical or not in the child’s best interests.
Is 50/50 Custody Possible in Texas?
A 50/50 custody arrangement in Texas is possible. The simplest way to achieve a 50/50 custody arrangement is for both parents to agree to it.
Our Texas child custody lawyers recommend working with your child’s other parent through mediation or negotiation to create a parenting plan that works for both of you. This way, you may be able to create a 50/50 custody agreement or a nearly equal split of custody. While the court will have to agree to it, courts tend to honor agreements made between parents if they believe it is in the child’s best interest.
If you cannot agree to a parenting plan, it will be more challenging to get 50/50 custody. It is important to understand that even if the court awards joint physical custody, meaning the child splits time living with both parents, this arrangement does not guarantee a 50/50 split.
However, you can fight for it in court. You must be able to show the court that you are an active and involved parent in your child’s daily caretaking and activities. Additionally, you must be able to present a strong parenting plan and explain why a 50/50 custody split is in your child’s best interest.
We recommend working with a Texas child custody lawyer who has experience fighting for equal physical custody for parents. An experienced attorney can help you understand your best legal options for moving forward and building your case for 50/50 custody.
Contact Our Texas Child Custody Lawyers for a Consultation
Do you have questions or concerns about child custody matters in Texas? We encourage you to reach out to our Texas child custody lawyers to discuss your unique situation.
At Warren & Migliaccio, we represent Texans in a wide range of family law matters, including divorce and child custody. We are here to answer your legal questions, discuss your legal options, and determine how we may be able to help you. Call our office or contact us online to get started.