One of the most widely talked about goals in family law cases involving children is to be able to share joint custody of your children with your co-parent. There is something very tidy about having shared custody of your children with your co-parent. It doesn’t matter if it is a child custody or divorce case. Many parents in our area strive to be able to share in the child-rearing responsibility with their co-parents. This is seen as the best-case scenario coming out of what can be a contentious family law case. Parents envision themselves being able to set aside their differences and raise their children in a way that is in the best interests of those kids.
In many cases, this is exactly what happens. Despite your differences and your shared histories when it comes to parenting, you and your co-parent are fully capable of making decisions and working towards the best interests of your children. This may mean putting aside your ego, resentment towards the other person, or even your past to make decisions that are in the best interests of your kids. This is not always easy but parents across the board agree that doing what is best for their children matters most in situations like this.
It is also true that the most likely outcome of your child custody or divorce case will be that you and your co-parent will share custody of your children. This is commonly referred to as joint custody. This is not by accident. The presumption in Texas family law cases is that it is in the best interests of a child for their parents to share custody through a joint managing conservatorship. Being a conservator means that you have certain rights and duties concerning your children such as the ability to provide that child with a place to live, financial support, and education and healthcare when needed.
Some rights come along with being named as the conservator of a child. For instance, two of the most important rights when it comes to your children is the right to make decisions for that child regarding their education and health. This could mean determining where your child goes to the doctor, whether an elective surgery will be pursued, or whether he or she is held back a grade or attends gifted and talented courses in school. While it is easy to get lost in the shuffle of a family law case regarding spending as much time with your children as possible these conservatorship rights and duties should not be overlooked.
In today’s blog post from the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, we are going to walk you through some of the pros and cons of being a joint managing conservator in Texas. Depending upon your specific situation a joint managing conservatorship may not work out best for your children or you. With that in mind, we wanted to share with you our thoughts on this subject that we have gained through years of representing and serving our neighbors here in Southeast Texas.
If you have any questions after reading today’s blog post, please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. We want to be able to provide you with an opportunity to meet with one of our experienced family law attorneys so that you can ask questions, seek clarification, and receive information about your specific circumstances. These consultations are free of charge. You can meet with one of our attorneys at our numerous Houston area locations as well as in San Antonio consultations are also available over the phone and via video. Whatever works best for you we are here to meet you where you are.
Joint managing conservatorships
When it comes to family and parenting structures after family law cases, the presumption in Texas is that a joint managing conservatorship is best. The reason for this is that Texas courts believe children do best when they can interact with both of their parents on an ongoing basis over an extended period. This means that if your case makes its way to a family court judge a court will typically award both you and you are co-parent with joint managing conservatorship rights and duties. Here is what that could mean for your family moving forward.
For one, joint managing conservatorship assumes that you and your co-parent are going to be able to make decisions together that are in the best interest of your child. These best interest determinations are going to be crucial to how you and your co-parent raise your child. If the two of you can put aside your differences and focus on your child first and foremost, then the joint managing conservatorship will work well for the two of you. However, if you approach your case from the perspective of two parents who are never going to work together and are always going to be pushing for what you think is best for the child then a joint managing conservatorship will be difficult to manage.
One of the challenges associated with the joint managing conservatorship is that it forces the two of you to share in the decision-making responsibilities on behalf of your child. In many situations, the two of you will have to agree on anything to occur regarding the health or education of your child. The reason for this is that jointly held rights and duties mean that the two of you must agree for a particular issue to be decided regarding your child. Exclusive rights are rare in joint managing conservatorships. This means that it does not happen very often where only you or your co-parent have the right to decide regarding your child. There are some independent rights and duties for joint managing conservators but those are few and far between. Most of the rights that you hold concerning your child will be jointly held.
Put yourself in the position of a parent who is going through a divorce. Your first impression of the divorce may be that you are finally going to end a bad marriage and be able to move on with the rest of your life. This can be a fulfilling and rewarding experience even though it might not be all that fun in the moment. However, bear in mind that just because you are ending a marriage does not mean that your relationship with your spouse will come to an end. On the contrary, your relationship with your spouse will continue but in a different way.
Namely, the two of you will be beginning your time together as co-parents of your minor children. This new relationship is in many ways more important than your marriage even was. So, if you thought that parenting your children with your spouse was difficult now you are going to be tasked with doing so in separate households. This does not mean that it is going to be impossible for the two of you to parent your children together. However, what it does mean is that there are going to be challenges associated with co-parenting that the two of you need to be able to work together on. This does not mean that the two of you are going to have to agree on everything, but it does mean that you will have to think about what is best for your child rather than what either of you wants first and foremost.
Next, thinking about how you want to assign rights and duties in your family law case is crucial. While joint managing conservators often do share rights and duties on a somewhat equal basis, that does not necessarily mean that all rights and duties will be shared exactly down the middle. Specifically, two aspects of conservatorship arrangements are not going to be equal between you and your co-parent. Specifically, I am talking about the right to determine the primary residence of your children as well as the right to receive child support. These are two of the most contentious issues in a divorce or child custody case.
Determining the primary residence of your child
One of the most sought-after rights that a parent can have in a conservatorship arrangement is the right to determine the primary residence of their child. If this is something that appeals to you in your case, then you need to know what this means and what impact it can have on your family. Simply put, when you can determine the primary residence of your child that means you can have your child live with you primarily. If nothing else, this allows your child to be able to spend more time at your home than that of your co-parent.
If your child is school-aged, then your child will be at home with you on school nights. You should examine your situation and determine whether this is a goal that matters to you and your family. I know that for many families the ability to determine the primary residence of a child is one of the most if not the most important in sought after part of it case. For some families who plan on splitting custody almost exactly down the middle, the ability to determine the primary residence of your child may not be an important issue at all. However, for other families, this may be an incredibly important part of a divorce and could end up being the reason why you and your co-parent are unable to settle your case.
You should be aware that it is not a guarantee of anything for your child to want you to be the parent who has the right to determine the primary residence of him or her. Depending upon your child’s age, he or she may not even get the opportunity to just share that information with the family court judge. Even if your child is a teenager and thus able to share their thoughts with the judge it is not as if that is the only factor that a judge will consider when determining who has the right to determine the primary residence of your child.
Determining the primary residence of the child usually comes in conjunction with a standard possession order. A standard possession order creates a possession schedule for your child that is predictable from week to week and month to month. The hallmarks of a standard possession order are likely very familiar to you. For instance, if you are a parent who does not have the right to determine the primary residence of your child, then you will be able to have visitation rights to your child. These visitation rights are marked by possession on the first, 3rd, and 5th weekends of each month.
There is also such a thing as an expanded standard possession order which allows you to take possession of your children beginning on Thursday evening and ending on Monday morning on the first, 3rd, and 5th weekends of each month. What this allows you to do is have two more nights per weekend with your child. Over a year this greatly evens out the time discrepancy shared by you and your co-parent. If you are a parent who does not believe that he or she can win primary custody of the children, the next best thing may be an expanded standard possession order. Be sure to talk with your attorney about this to determine whether or not this can be an arrangement for you and your family.
Is a joint managing conservatorship a good thing or a bad thing for your family?
When the dust settles, you and your co-parent are the ones who know best how to approach this subject when it comes to your family. Just because a standard possession order, joint managing conservatorship, or any other arrangement that is common to a Texas family law case seems to work well for other people does not mean that it will necessarily be that way for you. On the contrary, you need to be able to decide whether the type of setup we have described in today’s blog post would be advantageous for your family. If it is not, then you need to go back to the drawing board and work as hard as you can to negotiate a better arrangement for your family.
What we like to talk to our clients about is the human side of a family law case. This means that it is not as simple as reading a blog post or performing a mathematical calculation to determine what you should do in your family law case. While there is certainly good and trustworthy information on the Internet when it pertains to family law cases and joint managing conservatorships, that tells you absolutely nothing about how your specific circumstances factor into this equation. There is reason to believe that because your family may have different circumstances a sole managing conservatorship or a completely different type of arrangement may work better for you all.
A sole managing conservatorship could work better if your co-parent has never really played a role in the life of your child and is only now taking their responsibility more seriously. Your co-parent may have good intentions but no experience in raising a child. In that case, being able to help ease your co-parent into a relationship with your child could be for the best. Or your co-parent may have had a difficult past with your child and it may not be trustworthy at this time for several reasons when it comes to making decisions on their behalf. By the same token, this is where a sole managing conservatorship could work out well for your family.
Above all else, you need to look at what is in your child’s best interests and not necessarily what you want to see happen. Although we like to think that our goals and aspirations are always the same as what is in the best interest of our children, you may find that you have a difference in this area for whatever reason. If you can take a step back and assess the situation for what is in the best interest of your children rather than what suits you at this moment you will almost always come to the right conclusion for your family.
Questions about the material contained in today’s blog post? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan
If you have any questions about the material contained in today’s blog post please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. Our licensed family law attorneys offer free-of-charge consultations six days a week in person, over the phone, and via video. These consultations are a great way for you to learn more about the world of Texas family law as well as about how your family’s circumstances may be impacted by the filing of a divorce or child custody lawsuit.