Joint vs. Sole Custody: What's the Differences?

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Texas uses the terms conservatorship and possession and access when it comes to determining child custody. Conservatorship is the power to make important decision in the child’s life regarding schooling, medical decision, etc. and can be either held by one parent, called Sole Managing Conservatorship, or by both parents, as Joint Managing Conservatorship.

Which type of conservatorship is given is up to the court which will work to decide what is in the child’s best interests, taking various factors into account.

Possession and access refers to the actual physical custody a parent has with their child and can be either standard or extended standard schedules. The possession and access schedules can be determined by the parties or the court, again attempting to act in the child’s best interests. (Read more about extended standard schedules: Your Extended Summer Possession)

The court determines the best interests of the child based on several things:

  • Physical and emotional needs or danger
  • Stability of the home
  • Plans for the child
  • Cooperation between parents
  • Parenting skills
  • Who the child’s primary caregiver is 
  • Child’s preference if they are at least 12 years old
  • Geographic proximity of the children
  • Keeping siblings together
  • Fitness of each parent

In most cases, the parent receiving child support is the one awarded with the right to designate the primary residence and/or has possession and access to the child for a majority of the time.

What if I need to change the parenting arrangement?

The custody agreement can be altered if the court feels it is in the best interests of the child. Modifications of custody arrangements also require the parents to agree on the proposed change, the child to agree if they are 12 years old or older, there has been a significant change in the parents’ or child’s circumstances. The party desiring the modification will need to demonstrate there has been a significant change in their circumstances to warrant a modification.


Call the Law Office of Brett H. Pritchard to speak with a family law attorney today.

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