Varieties of Child Custody Arrangements in Texas

Child custody pertains to the legal and practical authority and duty of a parent or guardian to care for and make determinations concerning their child or children. It encompasses various facets of a child’s life, including their physical residence, welfare, education, healthcare, and overall upbringing. Child custody agreements are generally put in place when parents separate, divorce, or are unable to reside together while sharing parental responsibilities.

These arrangements are established to safeguard the child’s well-being and ensure that both parents play a role in their child’s life. The specifics of child custody arrangements can vary significantly, contingent on the particular circumstances of the parents and the child’s best interests. Courts aim to design custody arrangements that promote stability, assure the child’s physical and emotional welfare, and enable both parents to maintain a significant relationship with their child.

It is essential to recognize that child custody agreements can be created through parental agreements, mediation, or court-issued orders. These arrangements can be altered if there are substantial changes in circumstances or if it serves the child’s best interests. In child custody cases, the paramount consideration is the child’s best interests, ensuring that they have a secure, loving, and nurturing environment in which to thrive and develop.

Child Custody In Texas

Child custody regulations in Texas are dictated by state statutes and are formulated to guarantee that the child’s best interests are maintained when parents go through separation or divorce. Texas acknowledges two primary categories of custody: conservatorship and possession and access (visitation).


Conservatorship, as defined in Texas, is analogous to legal custody in other states and pertains to the rights and responsibilities of parents regarding the child’s well-being. There are two primary forms of conservatorship:

  • Joint Managing Conservatorship: This is comparable to joint legal custody, where both parents collaborate in making decisions regarding the child’s upbringing, education, and healthcare. Joint managing conservatorship is the standard arrangement in Texas, underscoring the significance of both parents’ participation in the child’s life.
  • Sole Managing Conservatorship: In circumstances where it is deemed to be in the child’s best interests, one parent may be granted sole managing conservatorship. This parent possesses the exclusive authority to make significant determinations for the child, while the other parent may still have visitation rights.

2. Possession and Access, also known as visitation, concern the physical custody of the child. Texas promotes regular and ongoing contact between the child and both parents. A standard possession order delineates the visitation schedule, covering weekends, holidays, and summer vacations. Parents can mutually agree on an adjusted schedule as long as it aligns with the child’s best interests.

When determining child custody arrangements, Texas courts take into account a range of factors, including:

  • The child’s age and preferences (if the child is of an appropriate maturity to express a preference).The child’s physical and emotional requirements.The parents’ capabilities to offer a secure and nurturing setting.

    The parents’ collaboration and readiness to encourage the child’s relationship with the other parent.

    Any record of domestic violence or abuse.

    Each parent’s financial circumstances.

It’s crucial to emphasize that Texas law does not favor one gender over the other in child custody matters. The court’s primary focus is on the child’s best interests.

Additionally, Texas uses the term “possession and access” rather than visitation, underscoring the importance of both parents actively participating in their child’s life. Nonetheless, the specific custody arrangements can differ based on the unique circumstances of each case.

Parents in Texas are encouraged to collaborate in developing a custody agreement that addresses their child’s needs and then present it to the court for approval. If parents are unable to reach an agreement, the court will make custody determinations with the child’s best interests in mind. It is advisable for parents navigating child custody issues in Texas to seek the counsel of a family law attorney to ensure the protection of their rights and the well-being of the child.

Types Of Child Custody Arrangements In Texas

1. Joint Managing Conservatorship (JMC):

Joint Managing Conservatorship, or JMC, is essentially joint legal custody. In this setup, both parents share the rights and responsibilities for making significant decisions about the child’s upbringing. These decisions encompass various aspects of the child’s life, including education, healthcare, religious upbringing, and overall well-being. Texas law generally leans towards promoting JMC as the standard arrangement, reflecting the state’s preference for both parents to be actively and cooperatively involved in the child’s life.

Sole Managing Conservatorship (SMC): In specific cases, the court may determine that sole managing conservatorship, or SMC, is in the child’s best interests. In this setup, one parent is granted exclusive authority to make major decisions regarding the child’s life. These decisions can involve where the child resides, which school they attend, and the healthcare they receive. The other parent, referred to as the possessory conservator, may still have visitation rights but does not share decision-making authority.

Standard Possession Order (SPO): The Standard Possession Order (SPO) is a common visitation schedule used in Texas when parents have joint managing conservatorship. It outlines the specific times and dates when the non-custodial parent, or possessory conservator, has access to the child. This schedule includes regular weekends, holidays, and extended visitation during the summer months. Parents can agree to deviations from the SPO as long as the modified schedule serves the child’s best interests.

Expanded Standard Possession Order: The Expanded Standard Possession Order is a variation of the SPO, providing the non-custodial parent with additional visitation time. This option is available when both parents live within 100 miles of each other, allowing for more flexibility in visitation schedules.

Modified Possession Order: Parents have the flexibility to create a customized visitation schedule that departs from the standard possession order. This modified possession order must be approved by the court and, most importantly, must align with the child’s best interests. This flexibility allows parents to adapt visitation schedules to their specific circumstances.

Supervised Visitation: In situations where there are concerns about one parent’s ability to ensure the child’s safety and well-being during visits, the court may order supervised visitation. This means that visitation occurs under the supervision of a designated third party or in a supervised visitation center. This arrangement aims to provide a safe environment for the child while allowing the non-custodial parent to maintain a relationship.

No Visitation: In extremely rare cases where there are grave concerns about a parent’s ability to provide a safe environment or when there is a documented history of abuse or neglect, the court may order no visitation with one parent to protect the child’s well-being fully.

It’s crucial to understand that child custody arrangements in Texas are highly individualized and adaptable to accommodate the unique circumstances of each case. The court’s paramount consideration is always the best interests of the child. Parents are encouraged to collaborate in creating a custody and visitation plan that aligns with the child’s well-being. If an agreement cannot be reached, the court will make the determination based on the evidence presented during legal proceedings.

Navigating child custody matters can be complex, and it’s advisable for parents to seek legal counsel from a family law attorney in Texas. An attorney can provide guidance, help parents protect their rights, and ensure that the child’s best interests are the top priority throughout the custody determination process.