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FAQs Written By Professionals in Texas

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SECTIONNote that answers given in this section cannot take the place of independant legal or financial advise. Please read our disclaimer.

"How does a joint custody agreement usually work?"

Joint custody is a broad layman's term that includes several aspects regarding each parent's rights, duties and obligations to a child. New Texas law now calls this a "parenting plan". The first part of a parenting plan is the parent's legal title. Texas law presumes that parents are each going to be called "joint managing conservator". In situations where the parents have a great deal of conflict regarding the children's issues, or where one parent has other issues of bad conduct affecting the children, like drug abuse, alcohol abuse, or domestic violence, one parent will be named the sole managing conservator and the other parent will be named the possessory conservator.

The second issue affecting the children involves what rights and duties each parent will have to make decisions about the children. One parent will be given the exclusive right to determine the children's primary residence, usually within a defined geographical area, and the right to receive child support. Other rights such as the right to make educational or medical decisions or the right to consent to marriage or enlistment in the armed forces will be shared by the parents.

Each parent will be given time to spend with the child. Most commonly, the judge will implement the Texas Standard Possession Order, which gives one parent possession on the 1st, 3rd, and 5th weekends of a month, Thursdays overnight, half of the holidays, and 30 days in the summer. The other parent will usually have possession of the children at all other times. A judge has the discretion to enter any possession order that the judge believes is in the best interest of the child based on that child's situation.

The fourth part of a parenting plan in Texas sets the amount of child support to be paid. Child support is calculated based on a percentage of the parent's adjusted net income, taking into consideration income taxes paid for a single person claiming one dependent. Additionally, credit is given for children outside the marriage for whom the parent owes an obligation to support and any health insurance paid for the child the subject of the suit.

Michelle May O'Neil, president of O'Neil Attorneys and a Certified Family Law Specialist by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization, is nationally recognized as a leader in family law. She focuses on child-custody disputes, complex marital-property litigation, and family-law appeals. May also acts as a mediator for other attorneys in resolving family-law disputes.

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