Child Custody & Conservatorship

Experienced Family Law Attorney Advocating on Behalf of Parents in Austin and Throughout Travis County

While the divorce rate in Texas has steadily decreased since 1990, divorce is still fairly common. In fact, according to the most recent statistics, more than two out of every 1,000 people in Texas are divorce. And about 40 percent of all families have one or more children under the age of 18. The result is that issues related to child custody are incredibly common in Texas divorce cases.

Divorce is often a complex and messy topic. However, for couples who have children together, going through a divorce can be particularly difficult. In Texas, courts use the term “conservatorship” instead of the term “child custody” for the rights and duties of a parent. TA judge can order one parent to be the sole managing conservator or order that both parents are joint managing conservators.The presumption under Texas law is that parents be joint managing conservators of their children. At the Law Office of Jason Wright, Attorney Wright represents parents seeking to establish conservatorship of their children. We also help parents seek modifications of conservatorships when they no longer reflect the circumstances that were present when the court made its initial decision. Our Austin, TX divorce lawyer takes a holistic approach to conservatorship issues, aggressively advocating for his clients’ while ensuring an effective and practical resolution of all issues.

What Is Conservatorship & Possession in Texas?

Depending on where you live, the term conservatorship carries different legal meanings. For example, in many states, conservatorship refers to an individual’s appointment to make decisions on behalf of an individual who is either incapacitated or disabled. However, in Texas, the term conservatorship outlines the rights & duties of a parent. The term possession in Texas is synonymous with physical custody.

If there is no possession order on the books, either parent can take physical custody (or possession in Texas) of a child at any time. Thus, to avoid unnecessary and potentially traumatic disputes, most divorcing couples come to an agreement on the possession and access of the children on their own or ask the court to devise a child custody plan.

What Are the Types of Conservatorships in Texas?

Texas family law allows for three types of conservatorships: joint managing conservatorships, sole managing conservatorships, and possessory conservatorships.

Joint Managing Conservatorship

In a joint managing conservatorship, both parents share the right to make important decisions that affect their child’s life. These decisions include those involving healthcare and education. As previously stated, Texas law presumes it is in the best interest of the children for parents to be named joint managing conservators unless there is a history of abuse.

However, just because a court orders a joint managing conservatorship does not mean that both parents will have equal possession time with a child. After a court determines that a joint managing conservatorship is appropriate, it must also come up with a possession order. A possession order clarifies when each parent will have physical custody of a child.

In most cases, a court will name one parent with the right to designate the primary residence of the child. However, a parent’s ability to determine where a child lives is almost always limited with a geographical restriction, requiring the child to remain within a certain area in order to have close and continuous contact with both parents.

Sole Managing Conservatorship

In certain situations, a court may determine that it is not in a child’s best interest to order a joint managing conservatorship, instead opting to 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. IA parent being named a sole managing conservator is not directly related to the possession schedule of either parent.

Possessory Conservatorship

The term possessory conservator refers to a parent who still has their parental rights but does get a final say in any of the rights and duties outlined for a sole managing conservator. When a court names one parent as the sole managing conservator, it will typically name the other as a possessory conservator.

Obtaining a court order for the custody of a child is imperative, as it gives a parent a way to enforce their parental rights against the other parent as well as other family members. Without a court order of conservatorship, a parent is unable to seek judicial intervention if another parent violates the terms of the court order.

How Can a Parent Modify an Order related to Child Custody or Conservatorship?

Once a court issues a child custody order, it will remain in place until the court modifies the order. The process to petition the court is to file a modification. However, before a party can file for a modification, they must first be able to show how the circumstances of the child have materially and substantially changed since the time of the first order.

In the most straightforward situations, a modification case is uncontested. An uncontested modification case is when the parent against whom the case was filed either agrees that a modification is necessary. However, to obtain a modification by agreement, both spouses must not only agree that a modification is necessary, but they must also agree to the terms of the modification.

It is common for child custody or conservatorship modification cases to be contested by the other parent. For example, the following are examples of when a parent may seek a modification order:

  • A parent’s living situation change;
  • A parent is relocating for work;
  • A parent is suffering from addiction;
  • A parent was arrested;
  • A parent remarried;
  • A parent’s financial situation changed considerably; or
  • A parent is alleged to have physically or emotionally abused the child.

In addition to these situations, a court may also entertain a modification order if the child is older than 12 and expresses their desire to live with the non-custodial parent.

When a child custody or conservatorship case is contested, the assistance of an experienced Austin conservatorship lawyer is imperative to ensure that your rights are protected throughout the process. At the Law Office of Jason Wright, we have extensive experience helping parents protect and enforce their rights to ensure that they can remain involved in their children’s lives.

When Can a Parent Obtain a Conservatorship Order?

In most situations, courts issue conservatorship orders as a part of a divorce proceeding. However, a Texas family law judge also has the authority to issue conservatorship orders in the following circumstance:

  • When hearing a family violence protective order case;
  • When hearing a suit affecting the parent-child relationship case (SAPCR case); or
  • When hearing a paternity case.

At the Law Office of Jason Wright, we are dedicated to helping our clients be the best parents they can be. We recognize how emotionally charged child custody decisions are and do everything we can to make this challenging process as easy on you as possible while aggressively advocating on your behalf at every stage of the process.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Issues related to child custody and conservatorships can be incredibly complex. Below is a list of some of the most frequently asked questions related to child custody in Texas.

  • Under federal law, the general rule is that both parents must consent to the issuance of a child’s passport. However, there are circumstances in which one parent can obtain a passport for a child without the other parent’s consent. For example, if the court names one parent as the sole managing conservator and does not otherwise limit this parent’s rights with respect to the issuance of a passport, then this parent has the exclusive right to apply for, renew and maintain passports for a child.

  • Legally speaking, you do not need an attorney to file for the modification of an existing child custody or conservatorship order. However, most parents decide to retain the assistance of an experienced attorney. There are a few reasons for this. First, most modification orders are contested by the other parent. In most cases, the other parent will have an attorney representing their interests, and unrepresented parents may find themselves at a significant disadvantage. Second, the court must determine that any proposed modification is in the best interests of the child. This is a legal determination, and an attorney can help parents understand what they need to prove to their suggested modifications are in the best interest of their child.

Are You Dealing with a Child Custody Issue?

If you are in the process of going through a divorce and are concerned about the court’s child custody decision or are already divorced and need to modify an existing child custody order, reach out to the Law Office of Jason Wright for immediate assistance. Attorney Wright is a dedicated and compassionate Austin family law attorney who takes a realistic approach to helping his clients overcome the challenges they face in reaching their goals. At the Law Office of Jason Wright, we have extensive experience representing clients in child custody conservatorship proceedings and can help you achieve the results you desire in an efficient and effective way. We will advocate on your behalf at every stage of the process and keep you apprised about the status of your case along the way. To learn more, and to schedule a consultation with Attorney Wright, call 512-884-1221 today. You can also reach us through our online contact form.

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