Anatomy of child custody, part 2: court decisions

In the previous post, we discussed the process of using a mediator to decide child custody arrangements. However, when parents cannot come to a mediated resolution, the next step is to bring the case to court for trial.

Types of conservatorship

In Texas, the primary guardian is referred to as a “conservator.” The court will give one parent full custody of the child (sole managing conservatorship) or both parents (joint managing conservatorship). There are several factors considered when determining which parent, or both, will serve as a conservator. These include:

  • Relationship between each parent and the child
  • History of domestic violence with either of the parents
  • Parent’s health and finances
  • Where the parents live in proximity of each other
  • Overall welfare of the child

A conservator has the right to participate in the child’s education, health, and after school activities, and this includes the right to make decisions regarding the aforementioned. They also have the right to access any information regarding education and health records. This includes direct access to information about the child from the other parent.

Joint managing conservatorship

In Texas, it is presumed that both parents should be named as joint managing conservators, where both parties reserve the rights and duties as parents. The following factors are considered when determining joint managing conservatorship:

  • The ability to reach shared decisions between both parents
  • Whether all of the physical, emotional, and mental needs of the child will benefit from appointing joint managing conservators
  • The preference of the child (if over the age of 12)

But this does not often mean that both parents have equal possession and access to the child. The right to make certain decisions may be given to one parent only, who is named as the sole managing conservator.

Sole managing conservatorship

The sole managing conservator has the right to make all or most of the decisions regarding the child, and is allowed to exclude the other parent in the decision-making process. The sole managing conservator:

  • Makes decisions about where the child will live
  • Makes decisions about the child’s health and education
  • Receives child support on the child’s behalf
  • Consents to medical, dental, and surgical treatment involving invasive procedures

The parent who is not awarded sole managing conservatorship is referred to as the possessory conservator. Unfortunately, they do not get to enjoy all the rights and responsibilities associated with being a parent, but instead get the right to access or visit with a child under a well-defined schedule. In the final segment of the series, we will explore this role more thoroughly.

Watch for part 3 of our series on Anatomy of Child Custody in Texas