Child Custody — What Does It Mean In Texas?

In Texas, child custody is called "conservatorship." Instead of referring to a parent as a "custodian," Texas courts name a child's custodian as a "conservator." Conservatorship is the word used to describe the legal rights and responsibilities of a parent.

A family law judge will decide the terms of conservatorship. If both parents agree on a custody plan, the court will likely approve their agreement. If no agreement can be reached, the judge will create a visitation schedule, called a standard possession order, using certain guidelines. Parents can either agree on a schedule or the judge will order a schedule he or she thinks is appropriate.

At the law firm of Adam L. Seidel, P.C., we are dedicated to helping you negotiate a custody agreement that puts your children first. When you and your spouse separate, we recommend that parents consider using an internet-based program to communicate about children's parenting time schedules and other needs. Texas courts frequently implement a program called "Our Family Wizard" to help parents stay on the same page when it comes to their children. Check it out at: Our Family Wizard.

In the event modifications or enforcement become necessary, we are well-equipped to help you navigate these issues as well.

What Rights Are Included In A Conservatorship?

There are two types of conservatorships in Texas — Joint Managing Conservatorship (JMC) and Sole Managing Conservatorship (SMC). Generally, conservatorship (custody) includes the right to:

  • Get information from the other parent of the child about the health, education and welfare of the child
  • Have access to medical, dental, psychological and educational records of the child
  • Talk to a physician, dentist or psychologist about the child
  • Talk to school officials concerning the child's welfare and educational status, including school activities
  • Consent to medical, dental and surgical treatment during an emergency involving an immediate danger to the health and safety of the child

Joint Managing Conservatorship

In Texas, there is a presumption that parents should be named as joint managing conservators (JMC). In a JMC, both parties share the rights and duties of a parent. Even in this situation, the exclusive right to make certain decisions may be awarded to one parent only. Remember, the court uses the legal standard of "what is in the best interests of the child."

If both parents are made conservators, the judge will specify the responsibilities each parent has separately and jointly.

The tricky part about a JMC is that when a judge makes both parents JMCs, it may not mean that both parents are going to have equal possession and access to the child, i.e., custody and visitation. That gets decided in a separate visitation schedule known as a standard possession order (SPO).

Sole Managing Conservatorship (SMC)

SMC means the court grants only one parent the legal right to make certain decisions concerning the child. An SMC gives that parent certain rights such as:

  • Deciding the primary residence of the child
  • Consenting to medical and dental treatment
  • Consenting to psychiatric and psychological treatment
  • Being designated on the child's records as a person to be contacted in the event of an emergency
  • The right to attend school activities
  • Receiving child support
  • Making decisions concerning the child's education

There are a number of reasons why a court could grant one parent an SMC. Perhaps one parent doesn't want joint managing conservatorship (custody) responsibilities. Other reasons include:

  • The other parent has a history of family violence or neglect.
  • The other parent has a history of drugs, alcohol or other criminal activity.
  • The other parent has been absent from the child's life.
  • There is a history of extreme conflict between the parents over educational, medical and religious values.

To ensure that the court has the information necessary to make a decision in your children's best interest, it is vital to have an experienced child custody lawyer. Schedule a consultation today by emailing us or calling us at 214-528-3344 (Dallas) or 972-312-1212 (Plano).