The legal term used in Texas for child custody is conservatorship which is used for filing any type of Suit Affecting the Parent-Child Relationship (SAPCR). Conservatorship is used by the family courts in Texas to define the rights & duties of both parents with respect to the child. It can also be used to limit the parental rights provided the courts have received evidences that call for such measures so as to protect the child (Texas Family Code § 153.072). A child custody lawyer will talk you through the various processes and facts that are used by the courts to decide on conservatorship. Two different types of conservatorship used in Texas are discussed below:
Joint Managing Conservatorship (JMC)
According to the Family Law, it’s a rebuttable presumption that awarding JMC is in the best interest of the child. In JMC, parental rights and duties are shared by both parents; however, this doesn’t mean that both the parents will have the same duration possession of and access to the child. Even in this type, one of the parents (custodial parent) will be given the exclusive right to decide the primary residence of the child over the non-custodial parent. The legal term used for a non-custodial parent is possessory conservator. However, apart from the primary residence right, every other decision concerning the child are taken with the consensus of both parents.
Various factors are taken into account by a family court before ordering JMC (Texas Family Code § 153.134) and these factors are:
1. Whether ordering JMC will lead to physical, psychological, and/or emotional growth of the child;
2. Are parents capable of giving primary importance to the welfare of the child and to reach consensual decisions keeping in mind what’s best for the child;
3. Is it possible for both parents to encourage and accept the relationship between the child and the other parent;
4. Did both parents actively participate in raising the child;
5. How far or near are the parents’ residences;
6. Who is the child’s preference to be the custodial parent provided he/she is 12 years or older;
7. Any other factor that court founds to be relevant in determining conservatorship.
Sole Managing Conservatorship (SMC)
Due to certain reasons, it is possible that the court make a sole managing conservator and give that parent specific rights (and duties) with respect to the child. Some of these rights & duties include: the right to decide on the primary residence of the child; authority to give consent to medical, dental, and surgical procedures; give consent for psychiatric & psychological treatment; and many more as given in the Texas Family Code § 153.132.
There are numerous reasons why JMC is not awarded such as history of family violence, sexual abuse, drugs, alcohol, neglect & abuse of child, long absence from the child’s life, apparent and irreconcilable differences between parents with respect to education, religion and medical procedures, and if one of the parents doesn’t wish to become a joint conservator. It is always advisable to consult a child custody lawyer to properly navigate through complex conservatorship, possession of and access to the child issues.