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Family Law Cases in Texas: Conservatorship Explained

The word that I hear most often from clients regarding their children, and frankly use myself when discussing the rights and duties of parents, is "custody." It's a word commonly used in our culture today, and, as a result, it 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, you could fall into one of these two categories. With that said, the issue of conservatorship is highly relevant to your life if you are considering 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. The word "custody" is not utilized in the Family Code even one time.

If you walk into an attorney's office and tell them 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 your legal rights and duties about 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 can come to resolutions on what is in your child's best interests and can settle on conservatorship issues. After all, nobody knows your child better than their mom and dad. While well-meaning and educated on issues regarding children, a judge 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, they will be tasked with determining what is in your child's best interests. This standard is purposefully broad and subjective and allows the judge, in your case, reasonably broad discretion to make decisions and use their 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 be used against you or your spouse because that sort of behavior puts your child in a dangerous and unsafe position. Given this sort of evidence, the presumption that a joint managing conservatorship would be rebutted 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 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 them. The other side to that coin is that with greater rights comes greater responsibilities. You can determine where your child will live primarily (likely with you), what sort of medical attention they 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 of sole management of your child's conservatorship rights and duties.

Possessory conservatorship: What are the rights and duties of 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, providing for them financially and supporting them emotionally and otherwise.

Unfortunately, based on your circumstances, your rights will otherwise be restricted regarding your decision-making capabilities regarding your child. You will likely have the right to receive information from your spouse about your child's activities and schooling. Still, you may not be able to 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 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 individual right to determine your child's primary residence. That same parent will also have the ability to receive child support from the other parent.

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 you and your child's other parents have to make regarding 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 "tiebreaker" person is typically designated in court orders to break the tie. Counselors, physicians, and other trusted adults are usually the ones named as the tiebreaker.

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

Conservatorship is a critical topic for any parent going through a family law case in Texas, so I hope you can return tomorrow to read our blog post on this subject. Many grandparents come in to speak to us about their rights 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 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 essential 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 the 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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