Following a divorce with children, issues of custody often arise. In Texas, the term “conservatorship” is used to describe the rights, responsibilities and duties of parents in raising their child, which is what most people think of as “custody” of the child. Conservatorship only addresses the legal rights and obligations of a parent.
There are two kinds of conservatorships: the first is sole managing conservatorship, which is uncommon; the other is joint managing conservatorship, and is the most common. The court will take into consideration many facts in determining which conservatorship is appropriate, however the “default” presumption is that joint managing conservatorship is in the best interest of the child. Judges are not allowed to discriminate against a parent because of gender or marital status. One of the major issues a court will look into is whether there has been a history of family violence. A history of family violence may be established through testimony by the parent who was a victim, witnesses to the violence, pictures, doctors, hospital records, domestic violence counselor’s records, domestic violence shelter records, and certain court records. If there is a history of family violence (either between the parents or involving a child), the court will weigh that in deciding on conservatorship.
The following are brief explanations of the differences between the two types of conservatorships.
Sole Managing Conservatorship:
Rarely, one parent may be named the sole managing conservator over a child. When a parent is given sole managing conservatorship, that parent has superior rights in raising the child. That parent also has the most responsibility in raising the child. The parent appointed as sole managing conservator has the right to: establish where the child will live, represent the child in any legal action, consent to marriage or enlistment in the military, make religious and educational decisions, keep any of the child’s earnings, and to apply for and keep a passport for the child. Sole managing conservatorship may be granted where there is a history of family violence, abuse or neglect, or if the other parent is (or is married to) a sex offender.
Joint Managing Conservatorship:
Joint managing conservatorship is the default arrangement for child custody in Texas. This means that parents share responsibility for major decision making on behalf of the child in matters such as education, religion, and medical crises. It does not mean that both parents spend the same amount of time with the child. However, one parent will be designated as the “primary” joint managing conservator (this is the person most people would say has “custody”), and the other will be the “possessory conservator” because that person has the right to possession of the child at certain times. The child may live primarily with the parent appointed as the primary managing conservator, and this parent will have the day-to-day responsibility for caring for the child. The primary managing conservator usually receives child support from the other parent. Either fathers or mothers can be appointed as primary joint managing conservators.
In limited circumstances, a person other than the biological parent (such as a foster parent or grandparent) can be granted conservatorship.
Another common issue in custody disputes centers around relocation or the primary residence of the child. If the parents are appointed joint managing conservators, the court is required to establish a geographic area for the child’s primary residence. The court may order the child to maintain primary residence within a certain county, or that county and its surrounding counties for as long as the possessory parent resides in that county or a contiguous county. The courts favor this type of domicile restriction, and it is commonly ordered because it is normally in the best interest of the child to live close to both parents. If the custodial parent moves far away, it creates a hardship for the other parent to exercise visitation. The court wants the child to have the opportunity to maintain close and meaningful relationships with both parents.
Shatleh Law can help you get the custody arrangement that works for you. Contact us today for more information at (832) 736-7190.