Regardless of whether they were married at the time of their child’s birth, Texas law on Conservatorship, Possession, and Access provides that each parent has rights and responsibilities regarding care for minor children.
You may be familiar with such concepts as sole custody, joint custody, or allocation of parental responsibilities – terms which are common in other US states.
However, the traditional notion of custody is called conservatorship in Texas. There are many different arrangements regarding conservatorship and, because they also affect visitation, it’s important to understand how the laws work.
A Waco, TX child custody attorney can provide guidance on how the relevant statutes apply to your situation, and will represent your interests as necessary in court proceedings to determine conservatorship.
Still, you may also benefit from reviewing some important general information about these cases.
Conservatorship in Texas: Different Types
While the Lonestar State may use different terminology to describe custody, many of the foundational legal concepts are similar. With this in mind, you should understand some important definitions:
The parent appointed as managing conservator has the authority to make important decisions regarding raising the child. Examples include decisions regarding the child’s primary residence, education, medical care, entertainment, travel, extracurricular activities, and many more.
A parent who is not appointed as managing conservator still has the right to possession of the child, a term commonly associated with visitation. A possessory conservator is allowed to spend time with the child, as well as:
- Access to certain information held by the managing conservator, including the child’s health, education, and general well-being;
- Access to medical, dental, and educational records held by other parties;
- The right to attend sports competitions, school activities, and other events the child participates in; and,
- The power to consent to emergency treatment if the child is hurt while the possessory conservator is exercising visitation rights.
Determinations on Conservatorship Issues
One of the first factors a judge will consider in making decisions is sole versus joint conservatorship. Texas law generally favors the child having solid, healthy relationships with both parents, so a court will often appoint them as joint managing conservators. Each parent shares in the parenting duties, and has the same powers regarding decision making.
Still, it’s necessary for the judge to appoint someone as primary parent for residential purposes. In such a case, the other parent will also have rights to visitation. For purposes of joint managing conservators, possession doesn’t necessarily need to be exactly equal.
There are some situations where a court will appoint a sole managing conservator. This parent has exclusive rights regarding decision making, without consent or consultation of the other parent.
The sole managing conservator has full possession rights related to the child, and doesn’t have to provide access to records, information, or other details. Note that a court will only appoint one person as managing conservator in rare circumstances, when doing so is in the best interests of the child.
For instance, a court will deny joint managing conservators and allow one parent to act if:
- A parent has engaged in domestic abuse, violence, or threats of violence – either against the child, the other parent, or members of the household;
- A parent habitually abuses drugs or alcohol;
- A parent has a disability or is otherwise unable to provide care for the child;
- That person’s parental rights have been officially terminated under Texas law; or,
- Other circumstances justify the appointment of a sole managing conservator.
Agreements on Texas Conservatorship
Many parents assume that they’ll face a drawn-out, expensive legal battle in matters involving conservatorship.
However, it’s important to keep in mind that litigation isn’t the only way to make determinations and resolve disputes. The law encourages parents to come to an agreement regarding managing conservatorship and possessory conservatorship.
A court will review a co-parenting arrangement carefully and, if it complies with the child’s best interests, the judge will likely enter an appropriate order.
In addition, even if you can’t reach agreement on all issues, it’s possible to resolve outstanding disputes through the mediation process.
A mediator oversees the proceedings, applying special skills to inspire productive conversation and encourage resolution of conflicts. Often, the process results in an agreement without protracted litigation in a courtroom.
Discuss Your Conservatorship with Our Waco, TX Child Custody Attorneys
If you have questions about conservatorship in Texas and want to know more about your rights, please contact the Law Office of Simer & Tetens at (254) 412-2300.
We can schedule a consultation to discuss your case at our Waco, Texas office. Our lawyers can provide more personalized details after reviewing your specific circumstances.