Navigating Your Child Custody Arrangements: Joint Versus Sole Child Custody


Establishing joint or sole custody arrangements is oftentimes an emotionally draining and painful process. It’s important that you have an expert on your side, who can navigate you through such a difficult time, as the decision between joint and sole custody is a critical aspect that requires careful consideration, especially in the state of Texas. In this blog post, we'll delve into the differences between joint and sole custody, explore the steps involved in establishing either arrangement, and shed light on the factors that may influence the court's decision.

Understanding Joint Custody and Sole Custody

Joint custody, also known as shared custody or co-parenting, involves both parents actively participating in making important decisions regarding their child's upbringing. This includes matters related to education, healthcare, and general welfare. In joint custody arrangements, the child spends significant time with both parents. In contrast, sole custody grants one parent the exclusive right to make major decisions for the child. The non-custodial parent, in this case, may have visitation rights but is not involved in the decision-making process. Sole custody is typically awarded when one parent is deemed unfit, when there are concerns about the child's well-being in the care of the other parent, or if one parent has committed domestic violence against the other parent or the child.  

Establishing Joint or Sole Custody in Texas

There are a few key steps that lead to the establishment of your custody arrangement. The main steps include the following: 

  • Filing a Suit Affecting the Parent-Child Relationship (SAPCR) or a Divorce Proceeding: The legal process begins with filing a Suit Affecting the Parent-Child Relationship, commonly known as SAPCR. This document outlines the details of the custody arrangement sought by the filing party.
  • Mediation: Texas courts often require mediation to facilitate communication between parents and encourage them to reach an agreement outside of court. Mediation can be instrumental in establishing the groundwork for a joint custody arrangement. 
  • Psychological Examinations:  In cases involving allegations of personality disorders and/or mental health issues the Courts can order a neutral third party to conduct psychological evaluations of the parents and in rare circumstances, the child.
  • Court Evaluation: If mediation proves unsuccessful, the court may appoint a neutral third party (oftentimes a Guardian ad Litem)  to conduct an evaluation. This may involve interviews with both parents, the child, and other third parties with knowledge of the facts and circumstances surrounding the parents and the child.  The evaluator can then provide the court with recommendations regarding custody or make other recommendations in the best interests of the child.  
  • Final Hearing: In the absence of an agreement, a final hearing takes place, allowing each parent to present their case before a judge. The judge will consider all relevant information and make a decision based on the child's best interests.

Factors Influencing Joint versus Sole Custody

The most important consideration influencing the decision is the child’s best interests. Factors such as the child's age, health, emotional and physical needs, and any history of abuse or neglect are taken into account. Court’s also take into account parental cooperation. Courts favor parents who can demonstrate a willingness to co-parent and communicate for the benefit of their child. Joint custody and shared rights and duties may be more likely when parents can effectively co-parent. In addition, the court assesses the stability and continuity each parent can provide. The court can look at a multitude of factors when deciding custody.  Some of the following are factors that the court can consider - the child's current living situation, school, special needs, circumstances of each parent, ability of parents to co-parent and communicate regarding their child’s best interests.


Navigating child custody arrangements in Texas requires a comprehensive understanding of the legal process, the differences between joint and sole custody, and the factors influencing the court's decision. By prioritizing the best interests of the child and demonstrating a commitment to cooperation, parents can work towards creating a stable and nurturing environment for their children, regardless of the custody arrangement chosen.

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