Mother and daughter smiling after mother won custody of her child

Is There a Difference Between Shared and Joint Custody?

Divorce brings up many issues that married couples must resolve before moving on in life. And with children in the picture, the challenges become more complex and time-consuming.

One complicated topic involves child custody laws in Texas. Specifically, many of our clients wonder whether there is a difference between shared and joint custody. Let’s dive into the answer related to this important child custody matter.

The Difference Between Shared and Joint Custody in Texas

The terms joint custody and shared custody are used interchangeably in Texas legal situations. They both refer to the legal right of both parents to make joint decisions about a child’s life. But neither is the official term.

When both parents have the right to make these decisions for their child, they are known as joint managing conservators.

But just because a parent is a joint managing conservator does not mean they are guaranteed the same legal and physical custody rights as the other parent. Although there is no real difference between shared and joint custody, there is a difference between legal conservatorship and physical custody in Texas. 

Standard Possession Order (SPO)

In Texas, the courts do not presume that equal physical custody is in the best interests of the child. Instead, the law has established a schedule of custody and visitation. This schedule is legally presumed to be in the best interest of the child.

The schedule gives one parent primary possession or primary custody of the children and gives the other designated custody times. It’s known as a standard possession order (SPO) and establishes physical custody guidelines that will govern the rearing of the children. 

Although the parent with primary custody (custodial parent) spends more time with the kids, the SPO provides non-custodial parents with many opportunities to fulfill their role as a parent.

Non-custodial parents are given physical custody for a certain amount of time:

  • Every Thursday evening for a few hours
  • The first, third, and fifth week of every month
  • At least one month during the summer
  • Every other holiday

However, SPOs are not used until a child is three years old. Until then, the courts typically automatically award primary custody of a child to the parent who has been the child’s main caretaker.

After that, the courts use various factors to decide primary custody. The factors that impact the custody agreement may include the child’s emotional development, wishes, safety, and the stability of the parent’s homes. 

Expanded Standard Possession Order

An expanded standard possession order (ESPO) extends the time the non-custodial parent spends with the children.

For example, the non-custodial parent gets an extra day during holidays. Also, the non-primary parent receives possession of the children from Thursday night until school starts the next day.

If a non-custodial parent lives within 50 miles of the kids, it is presumed that they will have an ESPO.

Navigating Texas Family Law

Texas family law is often complex, and so are the bonds that parents have formed with their children. If you are going through a divorce, you likely realize how much is at stake with your children’s future.

You can protect your livelihood and relationship with your kids by hiring a skilled family law attorney to advance on your behalf.

At Parker & Aguilar, our team will fight to have you named joint or sole managing conservator. With an attorney on your side, you get the peace of mind that your interests are represented at every stage of the custody process.

Our Family Law Attorneys Are Here For You

The results of a divorce will have a significant impact on your life, especially with children involved. You deserve to have your needs represented during this difficult time, including your needs as a parent.

At Parker & Aguilar, we provide our clients with the tailored legal services and support they need to successfully navigate the difficulties of divorce and child custody arrangements in Texas.

We currently support parents in Fort Bend County, Brazoria County, Galveston County, and Matagorda County. If you live in one of these counties, contact us to discuss your child custody situation.

You can reach our offices at 979-267-7660 (Angleton office) or 281-944-5485 (Sugar Land office) to speak with a helpful attorney. We can further discuss the difference between shared and joint custody, answer other questions you may have, and get started on your case. Our team is ready to defend your role as a parent to your children.