Child Custody

Child Custody Orders in Texas

Child custody is called “conservatorship” in Texas. Conservatorship laws outline the legal rights and responsibilities a conservator has as the child’s parent.

Typically, a judge will determine conservatorship unless both parents can mutually agree on a custody plan, in which case the court will simply need to approve the written agreement. A judge’s primary concern when determining conservatorship is the best interest of the child.

General Conservatorship Rights

Conservators have rights, such as the right to:

  • Access the child’s medical and educational records
  • Get information from the other parent about the child’s general welfare, including health and education
  • Consult a physician or other medical professional about the child’s health
  • Consult with school officials about the child’s educational status and general welfare
  • Consent to emergency medical treatment in which the child’s life is endangered

Types of Conservatorships

In Texas, there are two types of conservatorships: joint managing conservatorships (JMC) and sole managing conservatorships (SMC).

  • Joint Managing Conservatorships – The state presumes that both parents will be named as joint managing conservators, meaning both parents will share the rights and responsibilities for the child. These responsibilities, among other parental duties, will be outlined in detail by the court. However, one parent may still be granted the right to exclusively make decisions for the child in this case.

One thing to keep in mind about JMCs is that they do not automatically insinuate that both parents will split their time equally with the child. These custody and visitation rights are outlined in a separate visitation order known as a standard possession order (SPO).

  • Sole Managing Conservatorships – This is an agreement where the court grants only one parent these parental rights and responsibilities, including the ability to make decisions on the child’s living arrangements, healthcare, education, and extracurricular activities. An SMC will also be listed as the child’s emergency contact for school-related or other activities. SMCs are typically the recipients of child support as well.

Generally speaking, courts only designate one parent as the SMC in relatively extreme circumstances, such as if one parent has a history of violence, neglect, substance abuse, if one parent has largely been absent from the child’s life, or if both parents bitterly disagree on religious, educational, or medical values.

Visitation Orders

In Texas, visitation is known as the “possession of and access to a child.” A parent will not be able to get this access if the court determines it is not in the child’s best interest or if it poses a threat to their health or safety.

Once a judge determines that a parent is fit to have access to the child, they will create an SPO according to specific guidelines. Parents can also create this agreement themselves and have the court sign off on it.

Determining child custody can be a contentious and emotionally-taxing ordeal, which is why you need a seasoned family law attorney to guide you every step of the way. Kimbrough Legal helps Texas parents navigate this complicated legal terrain so that the child can thrive under the new agreements set up by a divorce. To schedule your free consultation, contact us here.