Family law issues, especially those involving conservatorship and child custody, can feel overwhelming and emotionally taxing. Whether you’re in the throes of a divorce or the middle of a custody battle, understanding the legal labyrinth of Texas laws is paramount.
At Hargrave Law, P.C., our Bedford child custody attorneys sympathize with your situation and can guide you through this challenging journey. In this blog post, we unpack the complexities of conservatorship and child custody, helping you make informed decisions that prioritize your family’s best interests.
What Does ‘Conservatorship’ Mean in Child Custody Proceedings?
In Texas family law disputes, “conservatorship” is the term for what most states describe as “custody” or “guardianship.” Essentially, the term refers to a parent’s legal rights and responsibilities concerning the raising of their children, including the right to make decisions about a child’s education, health care, and moral and religious upbringing. Under Texas law, both parents usually share conservatorship over their child and are known as joint managing conservators, regardless of whether the parents live together.
Different Types of Conservatorships in Texas
When it comes to child custody matters in Texas, the law recognizes two primary types of conservatorships: Joint Managing Conservatorships (JMC) and Sole Managing Conservatorships (SMC). In a JMC, both parents share the rights and duties of raising their children, even if they are no longer married or living together. This does not necessarily mean an equal division of time with their children, but rather that both parents have an equal share in making important decisions about the child’s upbringing. A JMC is the preferred, default type of conservatorship under Texas law.
In an SMC, one parent has sole authority to make critical decisions for a child, though the other parent may still spend time with them. The courts typically grant an SMC when the evidence shows one parent is unfit to make critical decisions for their child or spend time with the child. For a parent to obtain an SMC, they typically must show the other parent has a history of violence, neglect, or abuse, or is absent from the child’s life.
If the courts grant one parent sole conservatorship, they usually name the other parent a possessory conservator. A possessory conservator has many of the same rights as a managing conservator and can spend time with their child, but the managing conservator has sole authority to make key decisions for the child.
Factors Judges Consider in Conservatorship Disputes
- The child’s wishes, in some circumstances
- The ability of each parent to meet the child’s needs
- The health of both parents
- Evidence of abuse or neglect
- The stability of each parent’s home environment
- Each parent’s ability to encourage a positive relationship between the child and the other parent
- Each parent’s previous involvement in the child’s life
How to Apply for Conservatorship of Your Child
If you are getting divorced, believe your child’s other parent is unfit to raise them or have other reasons to seek conservatorship of your child, you’ll need to obtain a court order. You can obtain a child custody order as part of a divorce proceeding, through a family violence protective order, as part of a paternity suit, or any suit affecting the parent-child relationship (known as a SAPCR case). The details of these procedures vary widely, and we strongly recommend you seek help from an experienced child custody lawyer.
Child custody and conservatorship disputes in Texas are complicated and require help from a knowledgeable attorney. Call Hargrave Law, P.C., at 866-444-4606 or complete our contact form for a confidential consultation today.