When the parents of a minor child decide to end their marriage, one of the first issues that typically comes up is custody of the minor child. In fact, many people remain in a marriage far beyond the point at which they decide they want a divorce solely because they are concerned about losing custody of their child in a divorce. Instead of battling for sole custody of a child, parents sometimes decide they want “joint custody” of the child. The problem is that most people do not really understand what that means, legally nor practically. The unique nature of a divorce means that you should consult with an experienced divorce attorney about your specific set of facts and circumstances if you believe custody will be an issue in your divorce. In the meantime, however, a McKinney child custody attorney has offered to explain the basics of joint custody in the State of Texas.
Understanding the Terminology – “Conservatorship” and “Possession and Access”
Anytime you discuss legal concepts it is imperative that you have the terminology straight. In the State of Texas, what is commonly referred to as “custody” translates to “conservatorship” and the term “visitation” translates to “possession and access.”
Sole and Joint Managing Conservatorship
In other states, custody of a minor child is routinely divided into physical and legal custody. Think of conservatorship as equivalent to legal custody. Specifically, conservatorship relates to a parent’s ability to make important decisions for the child, such as what school the child attends, what medical treatment the child receives, and what religion the child practices. Conservatorship of a minor child can be done in more than one way. If you are awarded sole managing conservatorship it means you get to make all the important decisions relating to the child. Joint managing conservatorship means you share the right to make those decisions with the child’s other parent.
Possession and Access
“Possession and access” refers to the time each parent spend with the child. When most parents say they want “joint custody” of their child, they mean they want the child to spend an equal amount of time with them. In other words, they want the child to live with them half of the time. Courts are reluctant to agree to agree to a scenario such as this for purely practical reasons. For a child to truly spend equal time with both parents, the parents are required to have an exceptional level of cooperation and communication. As you may well imagine, most parents going through a divorce are unable to maintain the level of communication and cooperation required to facilitate joint physical custody, or shared possession and access. Not only would the parents need to cooperate and communicate, they would also need to agree to live close to each other until the child graduates from high school. For all of these reasons, a true joint possession and access order is rare.
Extended Standard Possession Schedule
In the State of Texas, one option for a parent who does not have the child full-time is to get an extended standard possession schedule. This allows for more parenting time with the child than the standard possession schedule. The extended standard possession schedule includes:
- First, Third and Fifth Friday of Each Month.
- Every Thursday night through the school year commencing at the time school is dismissed and ending the next morning (Friday morning) at the time school resumes.
- If within the geographic limitation of the divorce decree or 100 miles (depending upon the decree), 30 days in the Summer.
- Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Spring Break are split year end and year out evenly.
- Mother will always receive Mother’s Day weekend commencing on Friday for the weekend.
- Father will always receive Father’s Day weekend commencing on Friday for that weekend.
Keep in mind that when the parents are unable to agree on the issue of conservatorship and/or possession and access, a court will decide. The court will always make decisions using the “best interest of the child” standard.
Contact a McKinney Child Custody Attorney
If you have additional questions or concerns regarding conservatorship and/or possession and access, contact an experienced McKinney child custody attorney at The Law Office of Jon R. Boyd by calling 972-332-0104 to schedule your appointment today.
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