In Texas, child custody is referred to legally as "conservatorship." Texas Courts always consider the best interest of the child as the primary factor when determining conservatorship as well as possession of and access to the child.
Parents normally share the following rights, unless limited by a court order:
- The right to establish the child's primary residence
- The right to consent to medical, dental, and surgical treatment involving invasive procedures and to consent to psychiatric and psychological treatment
- The right to receive and give receipt for periodic payments for the support of the child and to hold or disburse these funds for the child's benefit
- The right to represent the child in legal action and to make other decisions of substantial legal significance concerning the child
- The right to consent to marriage and to enlistment in the armed forces of the United States
- The right to make decisions concerning the child's education
- The right to the child's services and earnings
- Except when a guardian of the child's estate or a guardian or attorney ad litem has been appointed for the child, the right to act as an agent of the child in relation to the child's estate if the child's action is required by a state, the United States, or a foreign government
It is very important to understand certain terminology, including joint managing conservatorship, sole managing conservatorship, and possessory conservatorship.
Joint Managing Conservatorship
"Joint managing conservatorship" is defined as the sharing of the parental rights and duties by two parties, ordinarily the biological parents, even if the exclusive right to make certain decisions, such as where the child's primary residence is established, will ordinarily be awarded to just one party.
Current Texas law presumes that appointment of a child's parents as joint managing conservators is in the child's best interest, unless there is a finding of a history of family violence involving the parents. Further, the court will not appoint the parents as joint managing conservators if credible evidence is presented of a history or pattern of past or present child neglect or of physical or sexual abuse by one parent directed against the other parent, a spouse, or a child.
Sole Managing Conservatorship and Possessory Conservatorship
If credible evidence is presented of a history or pattern of past or present child neglect or of physical or sexual abuse by one parent directed against the other parent, a spouse, or a child, a parent shall be appointed "sole managing conservator," unless the court finds that appointment of the parent or parents would not be in the best interest of the child because the appointment would significantly impair the child's physical health or emotional development.
If a sole managing conservator is appointed, the court may appoint one or more "possessory conservators." The court shall specify the possessory conservator's rights and duties. Unless a party shows good cause why specific orders would not be in the party's best interest, the court shall specify and expressly state the times and conditions for possession of or access to the child.
A parent appointed as a possessory or joint managing conservator may be ordered to perform other parental duties, including paying child support. The rights and duties of a possessory conservator ordinarily include the right of access to medical, dental, psychological, and educational records of the child.
Striving to Reach the Best Results for You
If both parties are willing, a properly written agreed order may be drafted and presented to the Court for the consideration and approval of the Judge. Whether you reach an agreement or things just aren't working out with the other parent, you will need a family law attorney experienced in child custody matters to help protect your rights and the rights of your child.
Our firm has served the Dallas area for over 40 years, and attorney Jerry W. Melton is Board Certified in Family Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. We have the resources to answer all your questions concerning child custody and the qualifications to present a strong case for you. Please fill out our form online or call 972-980-8000 today to schedule a free consultation.