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Family Law Cases in Texas: Conservatorship, the Standard Possession Order and Child Support

Sole Managing Conservatorship

In yesterday's blog post, we discussed that the typical arrangement for parents coming out of a divorce is for each to be named as a Joint Managing Conservator of their child. This, too, is the setup that you can expect to find yourself in after your divorce. Joint Managing Conservators share equally in the rights and duties of raising their child (for the most part).

On the other hand, in rare instances, you may find yourself being named the Sole Managing Conservator of your child after the divorce has concluded. Your ex-spouse would be the Possessory Conservator of your child. What sort of circumstances could lead a court to name you as the Sole Managing Conservator?

For starters, if your spouse has been an absentee parent and not part of your child's life at all, then giving them equal rights and duties you would not make sense. Your spouse has been out of the picture negates any argument as to why they ought to be on virtually level footing with you.

Secondly, if your spouse has engaged in abuse or neglect of your child or of you during your marriage, it is unlikely that they would be named a joint managing conservator of your child.

After all, the Judge has the responsibility to make decisions that are in the best interests of your child. It would be hard to argue the point that it is in the best interests of your child to allow them to have frequent contact with an abuser/neglect or. It would even be worse for that abuser/neglecter or to be able to make decision-making abilities on par with your own.

Finally, suppose you and your spouse have had extreme difficulties in decision-making regarding educational, medical, or psychiatric issues during your marriage. In that case, it could be that your spouse is not named as a joint managing conservator. You would need to show that your spouse has not been willing to engage in rational thought on these subjects despite your best efforts.

None of these examples means, necessarily, that your spouse will not be able to visit with your child after the divorce has taken effect, however. If you are named the sole managing conservator of your child, this means only that you would have a superior ability to make decisions for your child in almost all respects.

Supervised Visitation

As we discussed in the prior section on Sole Managing Conservatorship, it could be the unfortunate situation that your spouse has engaged in abusive or neglectful behavior towards your child. As such, a judge may order that any visitation that your spouse has with your child- both during the divorce and afterward- be supervised. Either a third-party organization or a mutually agreed-upon family member can conduct the visitation periods.

These periods of visitation can either be ongoing and more or less permanent or temporary until your ex-spouse shows themselves to act appropriately. Sometimes therapy sessions or other treatment is mandatory along with these ordered periods of supervised visits.

The Right to Determine the Primary Residence of your child

One of the rights that cannot be divided between you and your ex-spouse is the right to determine your child's primary residence. In a joint managing conservatorship, the parent named the primary conservator will have this right. However, your ability to move will be restricted as a geographic restriction will be placed on your children. In Harris County, divorces mean that you reside with your children in Harris County or any county that touches Harris.

How will a court determine which parent has the right to determine your child's primary residence? There are many factors that a court will weigh, among them which parent has had the primary responsibility or providing daily care to your child, the age of your child, their specific needs, and the work schedules of you and your spouse. A court will also look at whether or not you or your spouse have the financial ability to raise a child by yourself.

The Standard Possession Order (SPO)

The theme regarding possession orders and possession schedules is that if you and your spouse can come up with a plan that suits both of you better, that is preferable to having a judge come up with one for you. After all, nobody knows your life, child, or circumstances better than you and your spouse. If you two can bury the hatchet and work together on a possession schedule, then that is a best-case scenario for you and your family.

However, if you both cannot arrive at your possession schedule, you will need a court to create one for you. A program outlined in the Texas Family Code and one that your court is likely to follow is called a Standard Possession Order (SPO). The SPO is designed to be as "fair" as possible when it comes to allocating time between you and your ex-spouse.

The hallmarks of an SPO are that the parent with visitation rights will have the child on the first, third, and fifth weekends of each month. A Thursday evening visit from 6 to 8 p.m. occurs weekly during the school year. Major holidays are alternated. The parent with visitation rights will either have thirty or forty-two days of consecutive possession of the child depending on the distance (less than 100 miles or greater than 100 miles) they live from the child's primary residence.

An SPO can be expanded to include an overnight visit during each week of the school year (Thursday to Friday) for the parent with visitation rights, as well as the ability for that parent to pick the child up from school on Friday and drop the child off at school on Mondays. From my experience as a family law attorney, this is the sort of flexibility that many parents like about expanded SPOs.

If you find yourself in a position where you are not the primary conservator of your child, you can maximize the amount of time that you have possession of your child with an Expanded SPO.

It may seem insignificant at first glance, but the ability to pick your child up from school on Friday (versus picking them up from your ex-spouse's home at 6:00) and drop them off at school on Monday morning (versus at your ex-spouse's home at 6:00 p.m. on Sunday) adds many days to your overall visitation time for a year.

You should be aware of the extra time you will need to be available for your child if you want to push for an expanded SPO in your divorce. Your attorney will go over the extra responsibilities that this plan entails and help you determine if an expanded SPO conforms to your schedule.

Establishing Child Support- Learn more about this subject tomorrow

If you are interested in child support in the context of your divorce, please come back tomorrow to learn more about this subject from the attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC.

Questions and comments about divorce and family law, in general, can be addressed to our attorneys in a free-of-charge consultation. Contact us today to set up a time to come in and talk to us about your case, your life, and anything else you would like.

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Other Articles you may be interested in:

  1. What to do When Your Child Does Not Want to Visit the Other Parent
  2. Can a child choose who they want to live within Texas?
  3. When Can a Minor Child Weigh in on Custody Decisions in Texas?
  4. Does my 18-year-old child still have to go with their other parent on the weekend for court-ordered visitation in Texas?
  5. What can happen when you ask the Judge to talk to your teenager during a divorce
  6. 15 Myths About Divorce in Texas
  7. Mom Versus Dad Who Gets the rights? - Custodial Rights Vs. Non-Custodial Rights in Texas
  8. When is Cheating Considered Adultery in a Texas Divorce?
  9. Texas Divorce Morality Clause: Be Careful What You Ask For
  10. 6 Tips - On How to prepare for a Texas Divorce
  11. How am I going to Pay for My Texas Divorce?
  12. How Much Will My Texas Divorce Cost?

Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC | Houston, Texas Divorce Lawyers

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 one of our Houston, TX, Divorce Lawyers right away to protect your rights.

Our divorce lawyers in Houston, TX, are 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 Houston, Texas, Cypress, 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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