The court that handles a divorce proceeding also determines who shall have custody of any children from the marriage. The term “custody,” in a divorce, often serves as shorthand for “who gets the children.” The vast majority of parents are awarded “joint custody” in a divorce, meaning that all rights and duties concerning the children are shared. In every case, however, the court must ultimately decide what custody arrangement is in the children’s best interest.
The legal term for joint custody is Joint Managing Conservatorship, and this arrangement is presumed to be in the best interests of the children of the marriage.
However, even in the joint custody situation, the court must designate one parent who has the authority to determine the location of the children’s primary residence. This parent is called the Primary Joint Managing Conservator and also referred to as the “custodial parent,” because most Primary Joint Managing Conservators will decide that the children’s primary residence is in that parent’s home.
The other parent is called the “Possessory Conservator,” because that parent has the right to possession of the children at certain times, and is commonly referred to as the “non-custodial parent.”
Aside from the decision regarding the location of the children’s primary residence, most other major parenting decisions are shared between the Primary and the Possessory Conservator. The presumption under the law is that Joint Managing Conservatorship is in the best interest of the children.