If you think joint custody means fair and equal custody of the child or children, you need to rethink your stance. Many parents going through a divorce find out that there’s a vast difference between these two terms. However, the new equal parenting bill is aiming to change things. Matters get hectic during a divorce. Even when both parties try to keep a level, clear head, getting divorced is emotionally draining. That’s especially true if the couple also has to negotiate a custody agreement. 

Negotiating divorces that include conservatorships and custody is a complicated process. The court’s primary goal is to make a schedule that benefits the child. However, that doesn’t always mean the schedule will be fair to both parents or even equal. In other words, joint custody isn’t always equal, and for decades, courts have appointed full or primary custody to mothers.

HB803 vs. Joint Custody

Texas House Bill 803 or the equal parenting bill recommends 50/50 custody of the child or children for both parents. It’s an integral part of the family law reform in Texas.

Joint custody means that the child or children will spend a substantial amount of time with both parents. Each parent gets to spend time with the child, and they both have equal responsibility for the child. In other words, both parents care for the child physically, emotionally, and financially. If a court orders joint custody, it does so with the child’s best interest in mind. This new Texas bill doesn’t aim to change that. It does, however, hope to provide both parents with more equal custody opportunities.

Does the Equal Parenting Bill Guarantee Equal Custody for Both Parents?

The HB 803 bill doesn’t guarantee equal custody for both parents. However, it does propose it. It’s just an open door for more equal child custody arrangements in the future. It’s a starting point that fathers’ rights groups all over Texas are saluting and praising. 

The family court can’t mandate that both parents have equal custody. First of all, both parents have to agree to it in the first place. Not everyone will be on board with an equal shared parenting plan. 

Making a fair and equal plan means outlining how many days a month the child will spend with each parent, what their responsibilities during that time will be, etc. That calls for low animosity between the two parents. It also demands a lot of effort on both sides to make a fair and equal arrangement. Co-parenting is always difficult, and both parties have to try their best to make it work. The court is just there to give both parents an equal chance.

Will It Always Happen?

No. Even if both parents agree to an arrangement that’s both fair and equal, the court can still deny them that. If the court deems that such an agreement isn’t in the child’s best interest, the equal parenting agreement will be null and void. Only when the court considers both parties to be fit parents, can an equal arrangement be made.

Is the Equal Parenting Bill Retroactive?

The Texas House Bill 803 isn’t retroactive. That means that if you have a custody plan in place that was court-approved, you can’t go back to court and renegotiate a plan that’s “more equal.”

The Texas HB 803 or the equal parenting bill will go into effect in September of 2021. Until then, it’s “pending in committee.” That means that the bill has been introduced and is currently on hold while the Texas legislature isn’t in session. 

Need a Family Attorney? Contact Davis, Ermis & Roberts Today

At Davis, Ermis & Roberts P.C. in Arlington, TX, there’s a whole team of experienced attorneys ready and willing to help you through your divorce and child custody battle. We’ve spent years navigating the family law and fighting for our client’s right to fair and equal custody arrangements, and we can help you with a wide variety of legal issues and family-related concerns.