What is conservatorship in Texas?

Most people have probably heard of child custody, and parents in Texas may approach their divorce prepared to negotiate for joint custody. However, custody laws are different from state to state. In the Lone Star State, family law courts refer to custody as "conservatorship."

Joint managing conservatorship

Unless one of the parents has a history of domestic violence or some other serious issue that puts the child's well-being at risk, the judge will probably order a joint managing conservatorship. Like joint custody in other states, this means parents will share most of the decision-making responsibilities.

Unlike joint custody in other states, the joint conservatorship does not indicate the parents will split their time with the child equally. Instead, the custodial parent will probably have the responsibility of determining where the child's primary residence is. However, there may be geographical limitations to this choice. The judge may order the child to stay within a certain school district or a certain county. 

Sole managing conservatorship

When a parent has put the child's well-being at risk, the judge may name the other parent sole managing conservator. Issues that prompt this decision include substance use disorders, child abuse, domestic violence and abandonment. The sole managing conservator is likely to have all the decision-making responsibilities to look out for the child's best interests.

The parent who has one of these issues does not automatically lose parental rights, even though he or she may not be able to participate in making decisions and other parental responsibilities. This parent may be a possessory conservator, who may still visit the child. Most family courts will attempt to create situations where the child can have a relationship with each parent. However, it may be necessary to order supervised visitation to prevent harm to the child. 

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