When we divorce or otherwise break up with our child’s other parent, we will likely find ourselves facing a judge who will decide who will have custody of our child.
It is confusing. Terms like “conservatorship” and “possession order” are being thrown around, and we do not know what they mean. The following is a brief overview of child custody in Texas that may help parents who are facing this situation.
Conservatorship in Texas
Texas takes a bit of a different approach to child custody, especially in its terminology. What most states refer to as custody, Texas calls “conservatorship.” Conservatorship can be sole, joint or possessory.
The parent with sole managing conservatorship has the right to make decisions regarding the child’s medical care, where the child will live and decisions regarding the child’s education. Sole managing conservatorship might be awarded when it is in the best interests of the child and:
- Domestic violence or neglect is an issue
- One parent has a history of substance abuse
- In the case of an absentee parent
- Parents cannot agree on how to raise their child
- One parent simply does not want to share conservatorship
Conservatorship can also be joint, meaning both parents share child-rearing authority. Parents can agree to joint managing conservatorship in a written parenting plan filed with the court. If not, the court might order joint managing conservatorship if it is in the best interest of the child.
Some factors the court will consider when awarding joint managing conservatorship include:
- Whether joint conservatorship will further the child’s physical, psychological or emotional needs
- Whether the parents will be able to put their child’s needs first
- Whether each parent can accept and foster the child’s relationship with the other parent
- Whether the parents shared in child rearing in the past
- How close the parents live to one another
- With whom the child prefers to live
If one parent has sole managing conservatorship, the other parent will have possessory conservatorship. This is referred to as “visitation” in other states. A possessory conservator is granted parental rights, which can be limited by the court, if necessary.
However, the child will primarily live with the parent with sole managing conservatorship. The possessory conservator’s visitation schedule is outlined in a standard possession order as outlined in state statute.
If the court is to deviate from the standard possession order, it will consider a variety of factors before doing so based on the best interests of the child, including:
- The child’s age
- The child’s developmental needs
- The child’s circumstances
- The parents’ circumstances
Conservatorship, whether it is sole, joint or possessory, must always be in the best interests of the child. The child only benefits when their needs are prioritized. As parents, we understand this, even if our relationship with our child’s other parent is broken or less than perfect.