Sole managing conservatorships: Full custody in Texas

in Texas family law, many of us have heard of either joint custody or sole custody. The difference between the two becomes important on several levels. The difference matters a great deal when it comes to time with your children. However, it also matters in connection with the rights and duties that you hold as a parent. All the central aspects of parenting a child are encapsulated within conservatorship arrangements. Before we go any further, we should define what conservatorship means in the context of a Texas family law case.

What does it mean to be a conservator?

Being the conservator of another person means that you have certain rights and duties concerning that person. These rights include the right to make decisions on the person’s behalf. In the context of a Texas family law case, these rights oftentimes relate to educational, health, and psychiatric care. Additional rights would include the right to determine the primary residence of your child and the right to receive child support. 

On the other hand, there are duties associated with conservatorship. These duties are an integral part of raising a child. You and your co-parent are already conservators of your children. The difference is now those conservatorship duties are written within a family court order. A key feature of your child custody case is negotiation over these rights and duties. 

What are the key elements of conservatorship in Texas?

The rights and responsibilities you have concerning your child may change because of a family law case. For instance, after a child custody case, you may no longer be able to determine the primary residence of your children. Likewise, you may gain the responsibility of needing to pay child support. This all depends upon the alchemy of your case. The best interests of your child are considered first and foremost in assessing questions like this.

The presumption in Texas is that your child does better when both of his parents play an active and involved role in his life. Facilitating this arrangement is the role of conservatorship orders. The conservatorship orders in your case specify how these rights and duties are divided between you and your co-parent. Every family law case is different. With that in mind, you and your co-parent negotiate through these subjects with one another during your child custody case.

A safe and stable living environment

The first duty a parent has under conservatorship orders relates to the home environment for your child. Maintaining a home for your child is a critical factor. This home environment should be suitable for the child. A place for your child to sleep, food and water, and a reasonable amount of safety. Different parents have different abilities to provide for their children. However, a reasonable number of precautions should exist in the home. Along with this comes the ability to care for your child. We are talking about the essentials here. Not anything outlandish or beyond your means.

Part of a safe and stable living environment is the ability of your child to attend school. Coordinating with your co-parent on matters related to your child’s education is critical. Many families coordinate efforts more easily than others. It is not always the case that families have the same vision for their child’s education. However, encouraging your child’s attendance at school and fostering their development is crucial.

Putting your custody agreements in writing

When it comes to the day-to-day parenting responsibilities you and your co-parent need to work together. Being able to manage expectations surrounding your child’s education, health and well-being is challenging. Going to court allows the two of you to set aside your differences and put the interests of your child first. Having a parenting plan which accounts for the needs of your child is helpful. It allows both of you to defer to the court orders whenever disagreements happen.

Think about situations in your parenting life where the two of you have had disagreements. Wouldn’t it be easier to simply defer to the agreed-upon court orders? This is as opposed to a situation where it becomes necessary to argue with one another continually about the best interests of your child. The more well-written and concise your court orders are the better. Ultimately, these orders need to be enforceable by a future court. Working with an experienced family law attorney provides you with a tremendous advantage in this regard.

Your best interests may differ from your child’s

One of the more difficult aspects of a discussion regarding child custody is understanding that your best interest as a parent differs from your child’s. Certainly, in some instances, your best interests and those of your child may be identical. However, what you want as a parent may not be in your child’s best interest. 

Courts acknowledge this by appointing guardian ad litems and attorney ad litems to family law cases. This is done to ensure that the child’s best interests are advocated for. However, it is also possible that what you wish to see happen in a custody case stands in contrast to what is best for your child. In that case, setting aside what you want to see happen in favor of what needs to happen for your child is best. It takes self-control and consideration from you as a parent to arrive at this kind of outcome. However, almost certainly doing so will help your child in the long run.

In the ideal situation, parents are both capable and willing to set aside their differences to help achieve great outcomes for their children. However, this is not always the case. In situations where you have a co-parent who is unwilling to work with you, that puts you all in a difficult position. On top of that, if he or she will not advocate for the best interests of your child then you are truly in an enviable situation. Finding yourself there means working with an experienced attorney becomes more important. The advocates with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan are equipped to help you and your family.

What are the different types of conservatorship arrangements in Texas?

Placing the best interests of your child at the forefront of a child custody case means putting them first. Parents should expect that in a child custody case, their desires are listened to but are not the most important factor. Rather, situations involving child custody require parents to balance the interests of their children and the circumstances of their lives. This is not always easy. It requires parents to take a step back and evaluate their lives objectively. Egos often hinder this process significantly. 

Being named as joint managing conservators is the “default setting” in a family law case. It is presumed that your child’s best interests are served by both of his parents playing an active role in his life. Proving this is not the case means supporting something other than a joint managing conservatorship. The alternative to a joint managing conservatorship is a sole managing conservatorship. However, even in a sole managing conservatorship rights and duties are shared to a certain extent between parents.

Division of rights between conservators

Parents divide the rights and duties concerning their children. As the name indicates, many of the rights and duties held by parents and joint managing conservatorships are done jointly. This means that you cannot make most decisions regarding your children by yourself. Rather, decisions are made jointly with your co-parent. This is especially important regarding health, educational, and psychiatric care. Do not expect any joint managing conservatorship to be able to make decisions like this without the permission and agreement of your co-parent.

Independently held rights are those held by parents which do not require consultation. Having the independent right to decide means you may do so without consulting with your co-parent. Of course, you may consult with him or her if you choose. However, there is no requirement to do so. This is especially important in emergencies where consulting with a co-parent would not be practical.

Finally, exclusively held rights means that you are the only parent who can decide regarding a specific subject. For example, the primary conservator of children has the exclusive right to determine the primary residence of the child. Likewise, that parent also receives child support exclusively. In other areas, exclusive rights are determined when a parent is unable to display a level of good judgment. This happens in situations involving drug use and alcohol abuse.

Examining sole managing conservatorships

A sole managing conservatorship is what many people mean when they say full custody or sole custody. Exclusive rights abound for the sole managing conservator. This includes decision-making about the primary residence of your child. You will be able to determine where your child lives primarily. On top of that you are also able to make all decisions related to the education of your child. Whether your child skips a grade, is left back and other details about their schooling are all your responsibility.

Medical decisions are of critical importance under a sole managing conservatorship. Likewise, you can make all decisions regarding the health and wellness of your child. A good example of a contentious topic in this area has to do with vaccines. We just came out of a period where many parents disagreed on whether to vaccinate their children. As an account managing conservator, you would have the exclusive right to decide about this area of your child’s life.

The possessory conservator of your child is the non-primary conservator. This parent has visitation rights and decision-making capabilities when the child is in their possession. Otherwise, the parent may be consulted at the discretion of the sole managing conservator. This does not mean that the possessory conservator has no rights concerning the children. He or she may access information about their education and health. This parent typically has the right to attend school events and other extracurricular activities.

Choosing a sole managing conservatorship

With so many benefits to children under a joint managing conservatorship you may be asking yourself why a sole managing conservatorship would be ordered. The best interests of each child matter in a child custody case. If you are the parent to multiple children, then the best interests of those children come into play during a family law case. There is also a desire for courts to keep children together if possible.

When a joint managing conservatorship is believed to harm a child’s physical and emotional development then a sole managing conservatorship becomes a possibility. A history of drug, alcohol, or physical abuse in the home also makes a sole managing conservatorship more likely. Limiting the contact between an abusive parent in their children makes sense on many levels.

There are many factors that a court weighs when it comes to naming a parent as a possessory conservator. With so much at play in a case like this having the advice and perspective of an experienced attorney matters. The Law Office of Bryan Fagan is skilled at providing a helping hand to families across Texas. We understand how these factors work together to determine outcomes in family law cases.

How important part of the desires of your child?

One of the factors relevant to a child custody case is the desires of your child when it comes to conservatorship. No one is impacted more by these decisions than your child is. As a result, children are provided the ability to voice their opinions. A child 12 years of age or older will be able to speak to the judge about their opinion so long as a party or the court requests the ability to speak to the child. This does not mean that a judge will necessarily agree with that child’s opinion. However, it does mean that the court must give the child an opportunity to voice their opinion.

Likewise, children under the age of 12 have an opportunity to speak to the court. However, it is different with younger children. It is up to the court and their discretion to allow a younger child to address the court on these issues. There are a variety of reasons why younger children do not always speak to the court. Much of this has to do with their age and relative lack of maturity. However, no matter the age of your child you may file a motion with the court so your child can voice their opinion on the matter.

The physical and emotional needs of your child

Children have unique physical and emotional needs. Courts acknowledge this and require parents to have a plan when it comes to handling these issues. It is common for parents to not agree on all issues regarding the physical and emotional health of their children. At the same time, nobody knows your child’s circumstances better than you and your co-parent. Therefore, putting aside your differences in hopes of helping your child is what matters most. 

On top of this, the court orders must address issues related to present and future needs. Young children change a great deal over time. This is a major challenge of a family law case. Figuring out how to account for the present and future needs of your child means having a plan. First, thinking through the topics that matter most to your child is logical. Does your child have a physical or emotional need that needs special care? Will child support be extended beyond their 18th birthday or high school graduation? 

Your ability to care for your child as well as your co-parent’s abilities also matters. Having displayed an ability to care for your child over a long period is what matters the most. Your child needs guidance when facing a particular physical or mental impairment. Having professionals in his corner, accommodations at school, and patience at home are all part of a good plan. 

What is your child’s relationship like with each parent?

A critical factor for a court is evaluating your child’s relationship with you and your co-parent. When the dust settles on a family law case your child is going to be spending a significant amount of time with the two of you. How much time your child has spent with you and your co-parent matters. Determining the adjustment of your child to life in separate households can be complex. Again, no one knows the circumstances of your child better than you and your co-parent. This is true even when the two of you find it difficult to agree on much of anything these days.

Questions about the material contained in today’s blog post? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan    

The attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan thank you for joining us today on our blog. We provide interesting and unique content every day of the year here on our website and blog. It is an honor to be able to serve people just like you in the family courts of Texas. When you are considering your representation options in a family law case, we ask that you consider our attorneys. We are privileged to serve many of our neighbors here in Texas in a variety of family law matters. This is a responsibility that we take seriously.

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. Interested in learning more about how your family is impacted by the material in this blog post? Contact us today.

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