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What Texas law has to say about child custody - III

In a series of ongoing posts, our blog has been focused on providing some much-needed insight regarding child custody matters here in the state of Texas. Our purpose in doing this is not only to help debunk some commonly held beliefs, but also to help divorcing parents secure a more clear and concise understanding of the road ahead.

Sole managing conservatorship

To recap, what is commonly referred to as "custody," is actually known as "conservatorship" under Texas law. However, neither term has anything to do with the time parents get to spend with the child, but rather reference their respective legal obligations and rights concerning the child.

In general, courts prefer what is known as a joint managing conservatorship, such that one parent is appointed the "primary joint managing conservator" (i.e., the "custodial parent") and the other parent is appointed the "possessory conservator" (i.e., non-custodial parent).

In these arrangements, both parents have largely the same obligations and rights with the only major difference being that the child's primary residence will be with the primary joint managing conservator.

There are instances, however rare, when the court decides that a joint managing conservatorship would not be in the best interests of the child and that an arrangement known as a sole managing conservatorship is more appropriate.

Those scenarios where a court may decide that a sole managing conservatorship -- or SMC -- is more appropriate include:

  • A documented history of neglect, abuse or family violence that may endanger the child.
  • A documented history of substance abuse/addiction issues and/or criminal activity that may endanger the child.
  • A documented history of extreme conflict between the parents concerning such matter as education, religion or medical treatment.
  • A documented history of parental absence.
  • A wish by the parent not to be appointed a joint managing conservator.

When a parent is appointed an SMC, it essentially means they have the most responsibility and superior rights when it comes to raising the child. In other words, they have the final say concerning such vital issues as education, medical treatment and place of residence, to name only a few.

We'll continue to explore this topic in future posts, including how to go about securing custody.

Source: Texas Young Lawyers Association, "What to expect in Texas family law court," Accessed Oct. 30, 2014 

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