Texas parents getting a divorce may have a lot of questions. They may be concerned about their child's well-being during the divorce process and afterwards, especially since the child will be going from one two-parent household to two one-parent households. It is a big change that will take some time to adjust to. Therefore, parents may want to make sure that a fair and appropriate child custody and visitation schedule is established.
First of all, it helps to understand some of the terminology regarding child custody in Texas. The state uses the term "conservatorship" when referring to child custody, which encompasses each parent's rights and responsibilities towards the child. Also, in child custody matters, the parent is referred to as a "conservator."
Sometimes, it is possible for parents to work out a written conservatorship plan out-of-court and have it approved by a judge. Other times, parents need to turn to the courts to establish a conservatorship plan. When this happens, the judge will first and foremost make decisions based on the best interests of the child.
Texas recognizes two kinds of conservatorship: sole managing conservatorship and joint managing conservatorship. Through JMC, each parent is responsible for the child and has rights to the child, although one parent may still be granted the sole right to make decisions on behalf of the child. In JMC, the court will specifically outline each parent's joint and separate responsibilities towards the child. However, this doesn't mean that the child will spend exactly 50 percent of their time with each parent. Those types of decisions are made in a standard possession order.
In a SMC, only one party is granted the ability to make certain types of decisions with regard to the child. Some examples of these decisions are where the child lives, decisions regarding the child's health care, decisions outlining who will be an emergency contact, and decisions regarding the child's education and who can go to the child's school activities.
As this shows, making decisions about conservatorships in Texas takes a lot of careful consideration and planning. In the end, a conservatorship plan should serve the child's best interests, whether that is through JMC or SMC. An attorney can help Texas parents understand conservatorship laws.
Source: FindLaw, "Child Custody in Texas," Accessed July 17, 2017