Conservatorship: Understanding Child Custody Laws in Texas

Cari Rincker General Leave a Comment

How does child custody work in Texas?

 In Texas, the concept of child custody is discussed in terms of both conservatorship and possession.  In general, conservatorship has to do with a parent’s right to make decisions about the child, while possession has to do with a parent’s right to spend time with the child.

Where parents of a child are or will be separated in Texas, the court will appoint at least one managing conservator, which must be a parent, a competent adult, protective services, or a licensed child-placing agency.  Managing conservatorship may be granted either solely to one person or jointly to two people.  The rebuttable presumption is that appointing both parents as joint managing conservators is in the best interests of the child, provided there is no history of violence or abuse.

If one or more managing conservators are appointed for a child, the court may also separately appoint possessory conservators, who are adults that have the right to spend time with the child.  The court will specify the rights and duties of the possessory conservator, including the times and conditions for possession of or access to the child.

Can I get “sole custody” or “primary custody” of my child in Texas?

While the phrase “sole custody” does not appear in the Texas Family Code, it is often used by courts and attorneys to refer to sole managing conservatorship.  Likewise, “primary custody” is not mentioned in the Code, but may refer to the situation where one parent within a joint conservatorship is given the right to designate the primary residence of the child.

 What are the implications of sole managing conservatorship?

 As a sole managing conservator, a parent has certain exclusive rights with respect to the child.  These rights include the right to designate the primary residence of the child, to consent to medical treatment for the child, to make decisions concerning the child’s education, to receive child support, to be a legal representative for the child, and to be a custodian of the child’s passport.  When one parent is made sole managing conservator, the other parent will usually be appointed as a possessory conservator, unless a court deems it is not in the best interests of the child to do so.

 What are the implications of joint managing conservatorship?

 In a joint managing conservatorship, the rights and duties of raising the child are shared between both parents.  The division of such rights and duties is laid out in either a court order or an agreed parenting plan approved by the court. While a court order will specify one parent within the joint managing conservatorship that has the exclusive right to designate the primary residence of the child, an agreed parenting plan may alternatively provide that the child’s primary residence be within a specified geographic area, such as a county or school district.  To be approved, an agreed parenting plan must also include provisions to minimize disruption of the child’s education, routine, and association with friends.  The plan must also be voluntarily and knowingly made by each parent, and it must be in the best interest of the child.

If you are looking for assistance with a divorce or a related child custody issue, contact our law office and schedule a consultation.

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