Issues related to the care and custody of children are some of the most challenging in any divorce. Parents can—and often do—have the best intentions for their children but disagree about raising them. If these issues are not addressed upfront, the court will determine which parent is awarded conservatorship of a child. At the Law Office of Jason Wright, we represent parents seeking to establish conservatorship of their children. Our Austin, Texas, divorce lawyer takes a practical approach to conservatorship issues, aggressively advocating for his clients’ while ensuring effective resolution of all issues.
Child Custody in Texas
In Texas, the terms related to child custody are conservatorship and possession; however, “custody” is used more informally. In most cases, a divorcing couple will either agree on child custody or ask the court to decide.
Types of Conservatorships
The term conservatorship deals with who gets to make decisions for the child. Texas law provides for three types of conservatorships: sole managing conservatorship, joint managing conservatorship and possessory conservatorship.
Joint Managing Conservator
It is presumed to be in the child’s best interest for the parents to be named Joint Managing Conservators. In a joint managing conservatorship, both parents share the right to make important life decisions that affect their child’s life. These decisions include healthcare, education and psychological decisions for their children, as well as consenting to marriage and military service. However, when a court orders a joint managing conservatorship, it does not mean that both parents will have equal time with a child. Possession is the term that defines what specific days and times a child will be with a parent. If the parents cannot agree on a possession schedule, the court will devise a possession schedule.
The right to determine the primary residence is also a right for conservators. If the parents cannot agree on this issue, the court must determine which parent has this right. In addition, a court may impose certain geographical restrictions about where a child may live. For example, the court may order that a parent cannot move a child out of their current school district or county.
Sole managing conservator
In certain situations, a court will opt not to make both parents joint managing conservators and name one parent as the sole managing conservator. This typically occurs when one of the following facts is present:
• One parent has been abusive, either to the child or the other parent;
• One parent is absent; or
• One parent suffers from drug or alcohol addiction issues.
If the court names a parent as the sole managing conservator, that parent will have the right to make all decisions on behalf of their child without consulting with the other parent.
The term possessory conservator refers to a parent who still retains their parental right to have possession of their child but who does not have any decision-making ability. When a court names one parent as the sole managing conservator, it will typically name the other as a possessory conservator. Alternatively, if the court names neither of the parents as the sole managing conservator, both parents will usually be named possessory conservators.
Obtaining a court order for the custody of a child is imperative, as it gives a parent something to enforce. Without a court order of conservatorship and possession, a parent cannot ask the court to intervene if another parent violates the terms of whatever agreement the parents came to.
Notably, even after a court makes a child custody determination, either parent can petition the court to modify the order. However, this requires the parent seeking a modification to show that there has been a material and substantial change in the circumstances since the court made its initial decision.
If you are in the process of going through a divorce and have questions about how the court may divide your assets, or you seek to modify an existing conservatorship order, reach out to the Law Office of Jason Wright for immediate assistance. Wright is a compassionate advocate who takes a realistic approach to helping his clients overcome the challenges in reaching their goals. At the Law Office of Jason Wright, we have extensive experience representing clients in conservatorship proceedings, advocating on their behalf at every stage of the process. To learn more and to schedule a confidential consultation, call 512-884-1221 today. You can also reach us through our online contact form.