In Texas, conservatorship refers to parental rights and responsibilities regarding the care, custody, and control of a child. The term “conservatorship” is synonymous with what is commonly known as “custody” in other jurisdictions.
Types of Conservatorship in Texas
Joint Managing Conservatorship (JMC)
Also known as joint custody, joint managing conservatorship is the default arrangement in Texas, emphasizing shared parental rights and responsibilities between the parties. Under JMC, both parents are typically granted equal decision-making authority regarding significant aspects of the child’s life, such as education, healthcare, religious upbringing, and extracurricular activities.
However, the child may primarily reside with one parent, known as the primary conservator, while the other parent, known as the possessory conservator, typically enjoys visitation rights and parenting time.
Sole Managing Conservatorship (SMC)
Sole managing conservatorship grants one parent primary decision-making authority and physical custody of the child, while the other parent may have limited visitation rights and responsibilities.
SMC is typically awarded in cases where the court determines that it is in the child’s best interests to reside primarily with one parent due to factors such as domestic violence, substance abuse, neglect, or the absence of a meaningful relationship with the other parent.
Legal Considerations in Conservatorship Determinations
In Texas, conservatorship determinations are guided by the best interests of the child standard, which prioritizes the child’s physical, emotional, and psychological well-being above the interests of the parents. When making conservatorship decisions, Texas courts consider various factors, including the following.
Child’s Needs and Preferences
Courts take into account the age, maturity, and preferences of the child, considering their ability to express their wishes and adapt to changing circumstances.
Courts assess each parent’s ability to provide for the child’s physical, emotional, and developmental needs, as well as their willingness and capacity to foster a positive and nurturing relationship with the child.
Stability and Continuity
Courts consider the child’s current living arrangements, including their school, community, and relationships with siblings, friends, and extended family members, aiming to minimize disruption and maintain stability in the child’s life post-divorce.
Courts evaluate the ability of the parents to cooperate, communicate effectively, and make decisions in the child’s best interests, promoting a healthy and supportive co-parenting relationship whenever possible.
Safety and Protection
The safety and protection of the child are paramount considerations in conservatorship determinations, with courts examining any history of domestic violence, substance abuse, neglect, or other factors that may pose a risk to the child’s well-being.
Relevent Law: Texas Family Code – FAM § 263.307.
Rights and Duties of Conservators
In Texas, conservators have specific rights and duties outlined in the Texas Family Code.
Right to Make Decisions
Conservators have the right to make important decisions regarding the child’s education, healthcare, religious upbringing, and extracurricular activities, taking into account the child’s best interests and preferences.
Duty to Provide Support
Conservators have a legal obligation to provide financial support for the child’s basic needs, including food, clothing, shelter, medical care, and education, in accordance with the child support guidelines established by Texas law.
Right to Access Information
Conservators have the right to access information and records related to the child’s education, healthcare, and welfare, as well as the right to participate in school conferences, medical appointments, and other important events in the child’s life.
Duty to Facilitate Contact
Conservators have a duty to facilitate and encourage ongoing contact and meaningful relationships between the child and the other parent, unless it is determined to be contrary to the child’s best interests.
In conclusion, conservatorship in Texas encompasses the legal rights and responsibilities of parents regarding the care, custody, and control of their child following divorce or separation. Whether through joint managing conservatorship or sole managing conservatorship, Texas courts strive to establish arrangements that promote the child’s best interests.