Joint Custody vs. Sole Custody

What Do These Terms REALLY Mean?

These two terms create an immense amount of confusion for a lot of people.  Many people going through a child custody dispute believe that “joint custody” relates to shared possession rights.  Likewise, the term “sole custody” also has many confusing interpretations.  As an experienced Dallas child custody lawyer, Gerald Tadlock has helped clients throughout the Collin, Dallas and Denton County areas with these issues for many years.

Dallas Child Custody Lawyer

The term “joint custody” is not a term actually used by family law attorneys.  Instead, the term is often confused with either a 50/50 possession schedule, or Joint Managing Conservatorship.  Similarly, “sole custody” is not used by experienced family law attorneys.  The confusion arises due to the mixing of parental rights & duties (i.e. conservatorship) with possessory rights (i.e. possession schedules).


Joint Managing Conservatorship can best be thought of as “co-parenting.”  The rights and duties of each parent are allocated either by the court, or agreement of the parties.  The parent with the exclusive right to determine the primary residence of the child can be considered the parent with “custody.”  Nevertheless, the parent without this right can have an equal voice in the decision-making process for the children.

Sole Managing Conservatorship is fairly rare in Texas based upon the rebuttable legal presumption that Joint Managing Conservatorship is in the best interest of the children.  With Sole Managing Conservatorship, only one parent maintains the majority of parental rights and duties.  That parent is called the Sole Managing Conservator.  The other parent is called the Possessory Conservator.  Generally, the parental rights and duties of the Possessory Conservator are limited to receiving information relating to school progress, medical notification and the duty to support the child.


In Texas, a Standard Possession Order is generally awarded to the parent who does not maintain the exclusive right to determine the primary residence of the children.  However, that is not always the case.  The parties may reach an agreement on a possession schedule, and they are only limited by their ability to be creative for their children’s best interest.  A judge must approve any agreement, but courts generally support responsible parent’s decision-making.

Some alternatives to a Standard Possession Order are a “2-2-3” possession schedule.  This is an equal-time arrangement where Parent A has the children on Monday & Tuesday.  Parent B takes possession of the children on Wednesday & Thursday.  Each parent then alternates Friday, Saturday and Sunday.  This option generally works best when the parents maintain homes within close proximity of each other.

Contact Dallas Child Custody Lawyer Gerald Tadlock Today!

There are many other options to consider when making decisions on conservatorship, as well as possession and access.  Speak with us today to learn how we can help get the results you want.   Contact Dallas child custody lawyer Gerald Tadlock to get started today!