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What does being a joint managing conservator mean in a Texas family law case?

If you are involved in a family law case in Texas then you are likely interested in knowing what you need to do in order to best position yourself within the case. Certainly your concerns lie mainly in being able to spend as much of your time with your child as possible and to have a hand in making important decisions in your child’s life. The rest, as they say, is just details.

The reality is that you need to know how to prepare yourself within your case in order to be able to make credible arguments regarding your future role in your child’s life. Although there is a presumption in place under Texas law that both parents of a child should be named as joint managing conservators of that child you will still want to have the evidence available in your case point towards you becoming the primary managing conservator if your case were to go to a trial.

Let’s take that assumption one step further: assuming that you and your child’s other parent are going to be named as joint managing conservators of your child, what are the biggest areas of disagreement that you can expect to encounter in a negotiation or trial? In today’s blog post from the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC we will discuss the subject of what questions really matter in a Texas child custody case.

Designating the primary residence of your child

This is the big one that parents in child custody and divorce cases alike get up in arms about- with good reason. Being able to designate the primary residence of your child means three things. The first is that you are able to live with your child during the week when school is in session and for most of the summer. As a result you are awarded more time with your child. Under a Standard Possession Order (SPO) this means that you will likely be able to spend 55% of the year with your child, if not more.

Next, you have the right receive child support from your child’s other parent. If you have one child at issue in the custody/divorce case this means that 20% of your child’s other parent’s income is on the hook for child support. Child support is intended to even the scales a bit since the other parent does not see your child as often and will not be responsible for much of the day to day costs associated with raising the child. Keep in mind that child support is not intended to allow your child to live the lifestyle that he has become accustomed to or anything like this. It is meant to care for the base essentials of daily life.

Third, being named as conservator with the right to designate the primary residence of your child means that you are able to also be awarded superior rights as to your child as well. It is typical that the parent with the right to designate the primary residence of the child also is able to have superior rights to being able to make educational and health care related decisions as well. This is not always the case but it is often times the case.

What about a geographic restriction on where your child can reside?

Even after the conclusion of your child custody case the court will retain jurisdiction over the case so that a judge will be able to issue additional orders in the future if the need arises. A typical restriction that is put on families after a child custody case is that of a geographic restriction on where a child can reside. While you are no longer subject to the jurisdiction of a court, your child will be until he or she turns 18 or graduates from high school. As such a court can regulate where your child lives until them.

The purpose of a geographic restriction is to allow both parents of a child to develop and maintain a relationship with their child after a child custody case. The thought is that if there would be no geographic restriction that is put into place a mother or father who is the primary conservator of a child could move away from Texas after a case ends causing the other parent to need to move as well in order to keep up. A geographic restriction states that you as the primary conservator of the child must live within a certain geographic area. It could be Harris County and any county that borders Harris. It could be within a certain zip code. Or it could be within the boundaries of a certain school district.

A geographic restriction is usually lifted in the event that the non-primary parent moves out of the geographic area where the parties are restricted to living. For example if your child is restricted to living in either Harris or Montgomery County and after two years you decide to move to Waller County then the geographic restricted is automatically lifted. Your ex-spouse can move with your child wherever he or she wants. The reasoning behind this is that the geographic restriction is intended to benefit you, and if you decide to make a decision that does not coincide with the order then you should not expect your ex-spouse to have to live by the order either.

How is time with your child going to be divided up when your case concludes?

A Standard Possession Order (SPO), as its name implies, is the most typical possession schedule that is handed out in a family law case in Texas. Its details can be found in the Texas Family Code, but it basically involves the non primary parent being awarded possession on the first, third and fifth weekends of each month as well as a Thursday night during the school week. Holidays are alternated on a yearly basis with the other parent. Summer vacation means extended time to spend with the non primary parent as well.

If your case makes it all the way to a trial then a judge would likely award the non primary parent a SPO barring evidence showing that it would not be appropriate. Things like family violence, drug or alcohol abuse are examples of situations that could lead to a SPO award not being made by a judge.

If you are a parent to a young child under the age of three then you should be aware that a SPO does not apply to you or your child. A judge would need to take your specific situation into consideration when handing out an order for possession. Obviously the needs of a child under the age of three are considerably different from older children. What typically happens is that a “stair step” order goes into place which allows the non primary parent to be awarded more time with your child the older the child gets.

If your family has a unique circumstance involving a child with a disability or a factor that we have not covered today the best advice that I can provide you with is to contact an experienced family law attorney in order to discuss your circumstances in greater detail. There is no substitute for being able to get practical advice from someone who has dealt with cases like yours before. While you can receive advice from anyone, the advice isn’t worth much until the advice giver has seen and experienced what you are going through in particular.

Questions about family law matters in Texas? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan

The attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC appreciate your time and interest in today’s blog topic. If you have any questions or seek clarification on anything that you’ve read today please do not hesitate to contact our office. We offer free of charge consultations six days a week in our office. A licensed family law attorney would be honored to meet with you and answer your questions and concerns in a pressure free environment.

We post to our blog every day of the wee and we hope to see you back here tomorrow as we continue our discussion into relevant and important family law topics.

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