Ideally, when you and your spouse part ways, your children will still have the benefit of a relationship with both of you. When the judge grants your divorce, you’ll have a suitable visitation schedule and both of you will have somewhat “equal time” to spend with them.
While most people understand the term “joint custody,” Texas refers to it as “joint conservatorship,” meaning both parents are responsible for the children and make joint decisions for them. This includes educational, legal, medical, and spiritual.
Conservatorship is the term Texas uses to describe “custody” of a child. Joint conservatorship is the standard arrangement for child custody, in which both parents make the necessary decisions for the child. The custodial parent is called the “primary managing conservator.” The child lives primarily with this parent and receives child support from the other parent for the care of the child.
Additionally, the visitation schedule is set in a possession order, also known as a visitation order.
When Sole Managing Conservatorship Is Necessary
Unfortunately, not all divorce situations are ideal. When it becomes obvious that one parent isn’t suitable for making these decisions, or worse, doesn’t act in the best interest of the child, you may need to pursue what’s called “sole managing conservatorship.”
Despite the name, the term does not equate with “sole custody.” Instead, it means that one parent has the only legal right to make decisions on behalf of a child, and is not required to consult with the other parent.
You can be awarded sole managing conservatorship if the other parent agrees to it. But the very reasons for your divorce may also be the reasons for requesting sole managing conservatorship.
This conservatorship may be awarded for a number of reasons:
- The parent that has been the child’s primary caregiver (male or female, no preference is to be used)
- The stability of the home environment
- Each parent’s specific plans for the child
- Physical and/or emotional danger to the child
- There is a history of drug/alcohol abuse with the other parent
- A history of neglect or abuse by the other parent
- Evidence of domestic violence
- False reports of domestic violence
- Previous criminal activity
- Long absences from the child’s life
- No interest in being a parent or having a relationship with the child
- Parties’ geographic proximity
Evidence of domestic abuse takes away the presumption that joint conservatorship is in the best interest of the child.
At one time, it was common for judges to name the mother as the primary managing conservator, but that’s not necessarily the case now. Fathers routinely petition the court for primary conservatorship, and occasionally, sole managing conservatorship. Men are as likely to be awarded sole conservatorship as well as women.
This is the parent that has visitation rights, does not live with the child, and has a limited number of rights in relation to the child. The judge awards this parent visitation rights along with a visitation schedule.
The possessory conservator is responsible for paying child support to the sole managing conservator. He or she may also be required to provide health insurance for the child, or pay for expenses not covered by insurance.
If there is evidence that visitation is not in the best interest of the child, or the child’s physical and/or emotional wellbeing is not threatened or endangered, the judge will not award possessory conservatorship to the other parent.
Help For Conservatorship Issues In Tarrant County
One of the most difficult parts of a divorce is the children’s immediate future. If you and your spouse can’t agree, or your spouse isn’t as responsible as he or she should be, requesting sole managing conservatorship may be the best answer.
Wendy L. Hart is an experienced family law attorney helping people throughout Tarrant County who need help with conservatorship issues. Wendy is a divorcee herself who understands the process and will work to protect your rights and your children’s interests.