Deciding how to handle childcare is often one of the most difficult parts of separating from a long-term partner. Knowing whether to seek sole custody, joint custody, or lesser rights can feel overwhelming, especially if you do not understand the possibilities. Whether you seek joint custody in Texas is your decision. No one else can make it for you, but some things can help.

Having an understanding of how custody works and the advice of an experienced child custody attorney can make your decision easier. At the Stout Law Firm, PLLC, we understand the importance of having all the information first. We can advise you on the options available to you and potential outcomes based on your unique situation. Reach out today to speak with a family lawyer about the particulars of your case.

What Is Joint Custody in Texas?

In Texas, custody is assigned through conservatorships. These conservatorships cover two types of custody: physical and legal custody. 

Types of Custody

You have physical custody of a child when they primarily live with you. If you have physical custody, you are a custodial parent.

You have legal custody of a child when you have the right to make important decisions about your child’s life. Important decisions include, for example, choosing the child’s:

  • Religious upbringing,
  • Residence,
  • Education, and
  • Medical care. 

When both parents share custody, they have joint custody. Texas law establishes how joint custody works. 

Joint custody typically describes two custody arrangements. First, the parents might share physical and legal custody. In that case, the child will spend relatively equal time living with each parent. Second, the parents might share legal custody while one parent has physical custody. In that case, the child primarily lives with one parent but usually spends certain weekends with the other parent.


Texas assigns custody rights through three types of conservatorships:

  • Joint managing conservatorships (JMCs),
  • Sole managing conservatorships (SMCs), and
  • Possessory conservatorships.

As the name suggests, JMCs involve joint custody. In a JMC, the parents typically share legal custody but they may or may not share physical custody.

In an SMC, one parent generally has sole physical and legal custody. One parent may be awarded an SMC if the other has shown little interest in the child’s life or if the other parent presents a danger to the child’s health and safety. The other parent may be awarded a possessory conservatorship, which includes limited visitation rights.

How Far Can a Parent Move with Joint Custody in Texas? 

Where a child lives is among those important decisions that fall under the legal custody umbrella. As a result, a parent with physical custody generally has to seek court permission before moving their child far enough away to interfere with the other parent’s right to see the child. Sometimes, this limitation applies even if one parent has an SMC.

In a JMC, a child custody agreement should specify limits on where custodial parents may move without notifying non-custodial parents. This limit frequently involves specifying a city or region the custodial parent may relocate within without first petitioning the court. 

If your order does not specifically address where the custodial parent may relocate to, that does not necessarily mean the custodial parent has free rein. One parent moving the child too far away can interfere with the other parent’s right to see the child and can get a custodial parent in trouble with the court.

How Does Child Support Work in Texas?

By law, parents are obligated to support their children until they turn 18. When parents live with their children, the law generally assumes they are meeting their support obligations.

When a child lives with only one parent, that other parent’s obligation to support the child does not go away. Instead, the noncustodial parent owes child support to the custodial parent. 

The amount a parent pays is set by law. In Texas, a non-custodial parent typically pays 20% of their salary or wages to support one child. This amount can increase up to 40% for five or more children.

Who Pays Child Support in Joint Custody in Texas?

In most cases, the non-custodial parent pays child support in Texas. This means that the parent without physical custody pays child support. However, this situation can be complicated when parents share physical custody or if one parent surrenders or loses their parental rights.

When parents share physical custody, both regularly care for the child, including spending money on their care. If both parents have relatively equal incomes, it might make little sense for either to pay child support. But if one parent earns significantly more than the other, a court may determine that the higher-earning parent should nevertheless provide child support.

Parents can surrender or lose their parental rights in specific circumstances. A parent who has no parental rights typically does not have to pay child support.

Consult a Child Custody Attorney

Fighting for the level and type of custody that is right for your situation is not easy, especially if you go it alone. The lawyers at the Stout Law Firm, PLLC, have years of experience explaining legal possibilities to our clients to help them make decisions about what to pursue in child custody cases. Reach out today to get advice tailored to your particular situation.

Angela Stout

Angela A. Stout was admitted to the State Bar of Texas in 2007. Ms. Stout has practiced law since 2007, with an emphasis in representing clients in family law matters. She earned her Juris Doctorate degree from South Texas College of Law in May of 2007. Ms. Stout became Board Certified in Family Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization in December of 2015. The Texas Board of Legal Specialization is a specialized group of attorneys that must obtain exceptional experience in a specific area of law, pass a comprehensive exam, and complete ongoing continuing legal education in that specialized area. Additionally, Ms. Stout is certified as a mediator by the A.A. White Dispute Resolution Center.


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