What is commonly referred to as child custody, but legally called “conservatorship” in Texas, is an important piece of a divorce and other suits affecting the parent-child relationship. It is a component of the legal division of the parent-child relationship in a divorce along with visitation rights and child support. Whether the custody issue is a divorce or modification, custody orders can be life altering for the parents, children and other caretakers. In many divorces custody is the larger issue than property division. You need a contested divorce lawyer on your side who understands the stakes, the law and how to fight for your relationship with your children.
Conservatorship or Custody in Dallas and Fort Worth, Texas
Many people use the term custody to mean a wide range of rights and duties of a parent. The Texas Family Code breaks up these aspects of the relationship into three aspects: possession; access and conservatorship. Possession and access relate to the physical presence of the child while conservatorship relates to the rights and duties of a parent or other individual named a conservator of the child.
Possession and access are two different rights. Access relates to the individual’s right to have physical or other forms of access to the child (such as phone calls or emails). Possession relates to the parent or other individual’s right to physical access and exercise care, custody and control over the child.
Conservatorship relates to the rights and duties of a parent or other conservator over the children. These rights typically include educational decisions, medical decisions, discipline the kids, where the kids live and so forth. These rights may be shared or independently held. One conservator may have rights another conservator does not. Texas law presumes giving both parents these conservatorship rights is in the best interests of the children but there are alternative arrangements. A parent or other conservator with rights over the children is a managing conservator while a parent who has possession or access to the child is a possessory conservator.
Joint Managing Conservatorship in Texas
The most common arrangement in Texas law for parents to divide conservatorship over children is through a joint managing conservatorship. Under a joint managing conservatorship the two parents split managing rights over the children. These rights may be shared, independently held by both, or independently held by one or the other parent. The division of rights and responsibilities can occur in almost any combination. It may favor one parent over the other or divide rights and responsibilities in an equal manner. Dividing rights in a joint managing conservatorship must be a careful decision for both parents because the division of rights will affect the parent’s ability to exercise typical parental duties and in turn affect the parent-child relationship. This arrangement is presumed best for the children under the Texas Family Code.
Sole Managing Conservatorship in Texas
Sometimes the child’s best interests means one parent has no managing rights with the other having sole managing rights. This relationship is known as sole managing conservatorship. Rather than both acting as managing conservatorship, all of the rights and duties are in the hands of one parent. The other parent may have some possession or access rights but no other rights over the child. This parent is known as a possessory conservator.
Sole managing conservatorship is typically only awarded when a parent is unwilling or unable to perform the duties of a managing conservator Sometimes this occurs when one parent intends to end the parent-child relationship; but most commonly occurs because one parent presents a threat to the child.