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Family Law Cases in Texas: Conservatorship Explained

The word that I hear most often from clients in regard to their children, and frankly use myself when discussing the rights and duties of parents, is “custody”. It’s a word that is commonly used in our culture today and as a result is what most people think of when they consider taking an issue with their child’s other parent to court.

This could be in the form of a divorce if the parents are married or a child custody case if the child was born to two parents who were not married. If you have a child then you could potentially fall into one of these two categories. With that said the issue of conservatorship is highly relevant to your life if you are considered filing a case against your child’s other parent.

Conservatorship in greater detail: Joint Managing Conservatorship examined

Conservatorship is the term that our Texas Family Code utilizes to describe the responsibilities and duties of parents towards their children. In fact, the word “custody” is not utilized in the Family Code even one time.

If you walk into an attorney’s office and tell him or her that you want “full custody” of your child, you likely mean that you want to be able to have your child live primarily with you and to spend the majority of their time with you. Conservatorship does not refer to these issues but rather what legal rights and duties you have in relation to your child.

The best way to begin our discussion of conservatorship, in my opinion, would be to differentiate between the two types of conservatorship in Texas. Those would be joint managing conservatorship and sole managing conservatorship.

Joint Managing Conservatorship is the most common arrangement for parents in Texas, due in no small part to the fact that it is presumed under the law that this is the ideal form of conservatorship for parents who are not married or otherwise in a relationship together.

This presumption is in place because our State Legislature believes that it is in the best interests of your child for you and the other parent of your child to have meaningful and fulfilling contact with both of you. Of course there are ways to rebut this presumption but in general, it is believed that a joint managing conservatorship is in the best interests of your child.

Determining the best interests of your child

Ideally, you and your child’s other parent are able to come to resolutions on what is in the best interests of your child and can settle on conservatorship issues. After all- nobody knows your child better than his or her mom and dad. A judge, while well-meaning and educated on issues regarding children, will certainly not know you, your child’s other parent or your child better than you do.

If your case must proceed to a situation where conservatorship rights and duties are going to be divided and drawn up by a judge he or she will be tasked with determining what is in the best interests of your child. This standard is purposefully broad and subjective and allows the judge in your case fairly wide discretion to make decisions and use his or her reasoning abilities to come to those decisions.

The facts and circumstances of your child’s life will be presented to the judge either in a temporary orders hearing or final trial. A history of family violence, drug use or something similar would obviously be used against you or your spouse because that sort of behavior puts your child in a dangerous and unsafe position. The presumption that a joint managing conservatorship would be rebutted given this sort of evidence and the “sober” parent would likely be named a sole managing conservator.

Sole Managing Conservatorship examined

In those cases where it is proven to a judge that appointing you and your child’s other parent as joint managing conservators is inappropriate, the alternative would be to appoint one parent as the sole managing conservator and the other as a possessory conservator.

If you are named as the parent who is the sole managing conservator you will have greater rights than the other parent in raising your child and making decisions for him or her. The other side to that coin is that with greater rights comes greater responsibilities. You are able to determine where your child will live primarily (likely with you), what sort of medical attention he or she will receive, and will have the right to receive child support from your child’s other parent if that is ordered. Educational decisions (which classes should your child be enrolled in) are another huge component to having sole management of your child’s conservatorship rights and duties.

Possessory conservatorship: What are the rights and duties for this parent?

If you are not the sole managing conservator of your child then the court will name you as the possessory conservator. You will have the same rights and duties as any other parent in Texas has towards their child as far as providing for him or her financially and supporting him or her emotionally and otherwise.

Unfortunately, based on your individual circumstances, your rights will otherwise be restricted as far as your decision-making capabilities in regard to your child. You will likely have the right to receive information from your spouse about your child’s activities and schooling but may not be able to actually have a hand in making those decisions or working with your child’s other parent on arriving at a decision.

However, you will still likely have the ability to make emergency decisions for your child and to attend school and extracurricular activities. The basis for your being named a possessory conservator and the other parent as sole managing conservator is that something about your history or the circumstances of your child’s life led a judge to believe that it is not in your child’s best interests for you to have equal rights and duties to your child as compared to the other parent.

Joint Managing Conservatorship examined

The vast majority of parents in Texas who go through the family law courts are named as joint managing conservators. The parental rights and duties that we examined in our prior section on sole managing conservators are shared equally in many cases by joint managing conservators. However, either you or your child’s other parent will still have the superior right to determine the primary residence of your child and that same parent will have the ability to receive child support from the other parent as well.

In your case, if you are named as the parent with the right to determine the primary residence of your child you are known as the “custodial parent” while the other parent is a “possessory conservator”. Most of the parenting decisions that you and your child’s other parent have to make in regard to your child will be shared ones. This means that it is rare that either of you would be able to make non-emergency decisions about your child without first consulting with the other. If a decision cannot be reached, a “tie-breaker” person is typically designated in court orders to break the tie. Counselors, physicians and other trusted adults are usually the ones named as the tie breaker.

Grandparents’ conservatorship rights and filing suit for custody will be the topic of tomorrow’s blog post

Conservatorship is a very important topic for any parent going through a family law case in Texas, so I hope you are able to return tomorrow to read our blog post on this subject. Many grandparents come in to speak to us about what rights they have to their grandchildren and we will go over that topic in detail tomorrow. Also- if you are curious about what the process looks like for filing for “custody” of your child we will discuss those steps as well.

Questions on the subject of family law in Texas can be addressed to one of the licensed family law attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC. Contact us today for a free of charge consultation.


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Other Articles you may be interested in regarding Houston Court Local Rules:

  1. Conservatorship in Texas: What is it and how does it apply to my family?
  2. Child Custody Basics in Texas
  3. When Can a Minor Child Weigh in on Custody Decisions in Texas?
  4. Texas Child Custody Modifications
  5. Amicus Attorneys in Child Custody Disputes in Texas?
  6. Sole Managing Conservator in a Child Custody Case in Texas?
  7. Teens with Children, Child Custody and Child Support in Texas
  8. Child Custody and Divorce in Spring, TX
  9. Custody and Visitation Rights of Grandparents in Texas
  10. 11 Things You Must Know About Texas Child Custody
  11. 12 Texas Custody & Conservatorship Battle Tips

Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC | Kingwood Divorce Lawyer

The Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC routinely handles matters that affect children and families. If you have questions regarding divorce, it's important to speak with ar Kingwood, TX Divorce Lawyer right away to protect your rights.

A divorce lawyer in Kingwood TX is skilled at listening to your goals during this trying process and developing a strategy to meet those goals. Contact Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC by calling (281) 810-9760 or submit your contact information in our online form. The Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC handles Divorce cases in Spring, Texas, Cypress, Spring, Klein, Humble, Kingwood, Tomball, The Woodlands, Houston, the FM 1960 area, or surrounding areas, including Harris County, Montgomery County, Liberty County, Chambers County, Galveston County, Brazoria County, Fort Bend County and Waller County.


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