The divorce process can be complicated. Even the terms used can be confusing. For example, in Texas courts, one may here the term, “conservatorship” when dealing with child custody. This is because our state uses this term instead of the traditional, child custody. Both terms though describe parents’ responsibilities and legal rights over their children. And, unless the parents can agree on a custody plan (i.e., where the child will live, who the child will live with, etc.), a family law judge will decide conservatorship.
Conservatorships take two forms: sole managing conservatorship and joint managing conservatorship. Generally, though, conservatorship (or child custody) includes the following rights: medical, psychological, educational, and dental records access and the ability to speak with those professionals; medical, psychological, educational, and dental consent; and access to and decision making authority over the child’s education and welfare status.
Texas’ default status is joint managing conservatorship. In this version, both parents share parental responsibilities and rights. But, this does not necessarily mean that both parents will be equal.
The family law judge can appoint one parent to have exclusive rights, like medical and educational decisions. This is determined utilizing the commonly known, “best interests of the child” standard. Simply put, the judge will make decisions in the best interests of the child.
In a sole managing conservatorship, the family law judge gives only one parent their parental rights, meaning that parent will be responsible to care for and have authority over the child and all decisions that relate to the child. This is normally only done in situations where there is a history of violence, neglect, criminal activity, drug and alcohol abuse, or a significant absence from the child’s life.
As one can see, child custody in Texas can be complicated. This is why it is so important to hire an advocate to ensure that parents maintain their rights and responsibilities.