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Child custody in Texas, The Big Picture

On Behalf of | May 13, 2021 | Family Law

One of the main issues our family law clients come to us with is “custody”. Usually the questions revolve around who gets custody, which parent gets to decide where the child lives, who is the parent with the final say for major decisions involving the children, and so forth and so on.

In Texas there is no such thing as child custody, Texas uses a legal concept called “conservatorship” to refer to the people, usually parents, to whom a court gives the right to make decisions about raising the child.

In Texas, there are three types of conservator relationships, and the differences between the three can be major or minor, depending on your specific circumstances:

    1. Joint Managing Conservator;
    2. Sole Managing Conservator; or
    3. Possessory Conservator

Joint Managing Conservator

Texas law says that parents should usually be named Joint Managing Conservators. A joint conservatorship order means the parents share decision making about most issues, including education and healthcare. It does not mean the child’s time is split equally between the parents.

A possession order will say when each parent has the right to time with the child. In most joint conservatorship orders, one parent will have the exclusive right to decide where the child lives (usually within a certain geographic area). This parent is called the “custodial parent” and the child usually lives primarily with this parent. The other parent is called the “non-custodial parent.” In some joint conservatorship orders, neither parent will have the exclusive right to decide where the child lives but the child’s residence will be restricted to a certain geographic area.

Importantly, the law says that parents should not be named Joint Managing Conservators if there is a history or pattern of violence by one parent against the other parent.

***If there is a situation where you believe your spouse or partner is committing violence against you or your children you should immediately call an attorney. Texas judges must consider evidence of family violence when making decisions about custody and visitation. See Texas Family Code 153.004 and 153.005. If the other parent has been violent or abusive, it’s important to talk with a lawyer about your case. You may be able to get free legal help. Call one of the organizations listed below for more information: National Domestic Violence 24 Hour Hotline at 800-799-SAFE (7233) or Crime Victims, 888-343-4414***

Sole Managing Conservator

When there is a good reason to do so, one parent (or sometimes a non-parent) can be named Sole Managing Conservator. A Sole Managing Conservator has the exclusive right to make most decisions about the child. Reasons a judge might name a parent (or nonparent) Sole Managing Conservator include:

        • family violence by the other parent
        • child abuse or neglect by the other parent
        • alcohol or drug abuse by the other parent
        • absence of the other parent in the child’s life

***If there is a situation where you believe your spouse or partner is using drugs, or committing acts that physically or mentally endanger you, or your children you should immediately call an attorney, or the proper authorities***

Possessory Conservator

If one parent is named the Sole Managing Conservator, the other parent is usually named the Possessory Conservator. If a nonparent is named the Sole Managing Conservator, both parents will usually be named Possessory Conservators. A Possessory Conservator still has the rights of a parent but will not have the final say on most decisions. Essentially a Possessory Conservator has the right to possession of a child during certain times, locations, and conditions with the ability to exercise certain rights regarding a child.

Final Thoughts

Conservatorship in Texas is a complicated area of law and no agreements should be entered into unless you are fully consulted and informed about your decision and its consequences. In every case, your children should always be the first priority. As such, at the Criss Law Group, PLLC we believe the best interests of your child and your family are paramount and, your interests should be fought for. In every case where Conservatorship is an issue, it is recommended to hire a competent, and experienced attorney to advise you on your case and the specific implications of any agreement or legal action you file. If you are interested, contact the experienced attorneys at our law office for a consultation and get us on your case to ensure your rights are protected, and your interests are being fought for.

Disclaimer: The legal information presented herein should not be construed to be formal legal advice nor the formation of a lawyer/client relationship. General advice should always be tested by the particular facts and circumstances of each particular case. Legal advice is almost always case specific. Statues, ordinances, legal procedures, case law and rules of evidence are often revised.