When it comes to child custody in the United States, most people are familiar with “sole custody” and “joint custody.” However, different states tend to use different legal terms in custody disputes. In the state of Texas, the terms regarding the parents in a Texas child custody battle are “sole managing conservator” or “joint managing conservators.” In Texas custody arrangements, each of these titles comes with specific obligations and legal rights for the applicable parent. Today we’ll cover what these obligations and rights are for each person when it comes to their children and how these decisions are made.
Why is a Conservatorship Needed in Texas?
Regardless of if parents were married or not when their child or children were born, Texas laws state that each parent has responsibilities and rights when it comes to caring for their minor children. These responsibilities and rights include:
- Providing a home for the child
- Caring for the child
- Choosing a school
- Making decisions regarding medical care
- Making decisions regarding dental care
- Reasonable discipline decisions
- And more…
When parental relationships don’t work out or the parents don’t live together for whatever reason, it’s not uncommon for there to be disagreements in how the child or children are raised. This is why it’s beneficial to have a custody agreement in writing. When parents can’t agree, sometimes it’s necessary to hire a child custody attorney to help with the process of sorting out custody and visitation.
The goal of the parties involved should always be to do what is in the best interest of the child. Unfortunately, sometimes there is a disagreement about what that is.
Different Types of Conservatorships in Texas
In Texas, the judge and the court place the child’s best interest above all else. It’s the primary goal in these custody and visitation matters. Public policy in Texas also places priority on children maintaining ongoing regular contact with parents who act in their best interests and are able to provide a safe, stable, and nonviolent environment. In addition, Texas law tends to only deny or limit parental rights and contact in situations where a parent has a history of acts of abuse or family violence.
Joint Managing Conservatorships in Texas
When it comes to being awarded a joint managing conservatorship, this is generally what is thought of as “joint custody,” “shared custody,” or “split custody.” Usually, parents are named as joint managing conservators. When this happens, it means that parenthood rights and duties are shared equally between the parents. However, the court is still required to create a court order that specifies:
- Any rights and/or duties granted exclusively to one parent
- Any rights and/or duties parents can exercise independently
- Any rights and/or duties requiring a joint agreement between parents
The law in Texas presumes that both parents will act in the child’s best interests in a joint managing conservatorship. However, just because they’re in a joint managing conservatorship does not necessarily mean that both parents have equal physical possession of the child. In some cases, while the court may decide that equally sharing parenthood rights and duties are in the child’s best interest, the court may not agree that equally shared physical possession is in the child’s best interest.
Sole Managing Conservatorships in Texas
Being awarded a sole managing conservatorship in Texas is generally what people think of when they hear the term “sole custody,” or “full custody.” A sole managing conservator has the exclusive right to make decisions regarding raising the child. These rights include:
- Education decisions for the child
- Medical care decisions for the child
- The primary residence of the child
- Permitting the child to marry before the age of 18
When one party is awarded a sole managing conservatorship in Texas, the other party is often named as a “possessory conservator.” This means that they have some rights, such as visitation rights and the ability to make decisions about the child’s upbringing while they are in their care. However, the party listed as the sole managing conservator is still responsible for the major decisions. Possessory conservators also have the duty to provide for the child’s physical needs while the child is in their care.
In addition to child visitation, the party in the possessory conservatorship is typically also allowed to do the following:
- Access information about the child’s health and well-being
- Access information about the child’s education
- Access to medical, dental, and educational records held by third parties
- The right to attend the child’s extracurricular and school activities
- The authorization to consent to emergency treatment if the child is hurt while in their care
Why Texas Courts Might Choose a Sole Managing Conservatorship over a Joint Managing Conservatorship
As the court is invested in the best interest of the child, they may choose a sole managing conservatorship over a joint managing conservatorship when the latter would significantly impair the child’s physical or mental health or development. The court will also decide upon a sole managing conservatorship when there’s a history of family violence or abuse.
In the event that visitation with the other parent is not in the child’s best interest or visitation would place the child’s physical or emotional welfare in danger, then the other parent will not be granted the title of possessory conservator.
Other factors the court may consider when determining a sole vs. joint conservatorship include:
- Any wishes of the child
- Emotional needs of the child in the present and the future
- Physical needs of the child in the present and the future
- Any danger to the child in the present and the future
- Both parent’s parental abilities
- Parent-child relationship with each parent
- Home environment stability
- Each parent’s parenting plan
- Any evidence of domestic abuse
- Any evidence of sexual abuse or sexual assault
- Any false reports of child abuse
Fighting for Your Child’s Best Interests
Hiring a professional and experienced divorce lawyer or family law attorney is a great way to protect your child’s best interests. Not only will qualified custody attorneys help with your custody battle, but they can also help ensure you’re getting the appropriate child support. Custody lawyers can also help in cases of supervised visitation and taking legal action in the event that your custody situation should change.
Reach out to the professionals at The Jimenez Law Firm to speak with one of our child custody lawyers. We’re well versed with the Texas Family Code, as well as other areas of family law including the dissolution of marriage, property division, and much more. Reach out to us on our website or call us at 214-513-0125.