One of the most typical concerns in Texas for families going through a divorce is how it will affect each parent’s rights regarding the children. In Texas, the term “custody” is legally known as conservatorship. Conservatorship determines the legal rights and duties that each parent has with regard to the child. In Texas, conservatorship falls into two categories, Sole and Joint.
In a Sole Managing Conservatorship (SMC), one parent is appointed Managing Conservator and the other parent is appointed as the Possessory Conservator. The parent who is named as the Sole Managing Conservator has the sole legal right to make certain decisions concerning the child, including, but not limited to, medical and educational decisions. The parent who is named as the Sole Possessory Conservator is awarded visitation rights, meaning the parent can make decisions for the child only while the child is in their possession.
The second category of conservatorship is known as Joint Managing (JMC). Under Texas law, it is presumed to be in the best interest of the child for the parents to be named Joint Managing Conservators. With a Joint Managing Conservatorship, the parents share the rights and duties. However, exclusive rights such as the right to designate the residence of the child and the right to receive child support may be awarded to one party. A parent cannot be appointed a JMC if there is a history or pattern of past or present child neglect or physical or sexual abuse by one parent directed against the other parent, a spouse, or a child.
One of the most common misconceptions of Joint Managing Conservatorship is that the parents have equal or almost equal possession of the child. Conservatorship ONLY addresses the rights and duties of each parent with regard to the child and has no affect on actual possession time.