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Child Custody Vs. Conservatorship

In Texas, child custody is called "conservatorship." Instead of referring to a parent as a "custodian," Texas courts name a child's custodian as a "conservator." Conservatorship is the word used to describe the legal rights and responsibilities of a parent.

Child Custody image

If parents can agree on a custody plan, a judge generally approves the written agreement. If parents cannot agree a Judge will decide the terms of the conservatorship order by determining what’s in the best interest of the children.

Types of Child Conservatorships

There are three types of conservatorship in Texas:

  • Joint managing conservatorship (JMC)

  • Sole managing conservatorship (SMC)

  • Possessory Conservatorship (PC)

What Rights Are Included in a Conservatorship?

Generally, conservatorship (custody) includes the right to:

  • Get information from the other parent of the child about the health, education, and welfare of the child

  • Have access to medical, dental, psychological, and educational records of the child

  • Talk to a physician, dentist, or psychologist about the child

  • Talk to school officials concerning the child's welfare and educational status, including school activities; and

  • Consent to medical, dental, and surgical treatment during an emergency involving an immediate danger to the health and safety of the child.

Joint Managing Conservatorship

In Texas, there is a presumption that parents should be named as joint managing conservators (JMC) and share the rights and duties of parenting. The order must set out the responsibilities each parent has separately and jointly.

One parent may have the exclusive right to make certain decisions like determining residence or consenting to invasive medical procedures. The court will always try to make orders that are in the best interests of the child(ren).

Even if both parents are named Joint Managing Conservators it does not necessarily mean that the parents will have equal visitation, possession, or access to the child. The presumption is that a standard possession order (SPO) is in the best interest of the children.

Sole Managing Conservatorship (SMC)

SMC means the court gives only one parent the legal right to make certain decisions concerning the child such as:

  • Deciding the primary residence of the child;

  • Consenting to medical and dental treatment;

  • Consenting to psychiatric and psychological treatment;

  • Being designated on the child's records as a person to be contacted in the event of an emergency;

  • The right to attend school activities;

  • Receiving child support; and

  • Making decisions concerning the child's education.

Why Would a Court Grant One Parent an SMC?

  • There are many reasons why a court would give one parent Sole Managing Conservatorship: The other parent has a history of family violence or neglect;

  • The parents don’t want Joint Managing Conservatorship;

  • The other parent has a history of drugs, alcohol, or other criminal activity;

  • The other parent has been absent from the child's life;

  • There is a history of extreme conflict between the parents over educational; medical and religious values.

At Sims & Purzer, we want to help you with your child custody situation. We have extensive knowledge and experience in family cases in Texas.

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