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What are the various types of child custody?

Everyone may have a concept of what child custody is. What may be surprising to readers is that there is such a wide range of types of child custody. And then, of course, there is the interesting quirk that here in Texas, we don't call it child custody. The term used in the law is "conservatorship."

Regardless of what terms are used, child custody matters are among the most sensitive issues addressed under family law. Resolving custody disputes, whether they stem from the dissolution of a union or efforts to work out details between unmarried parents, requires particular understanding of people and the law that tends to come only with experience.

What follows is a brief synopsis of some of the different forms child custody can take. There can be a number of key factors that help determine which one is most appropriate in a given case. The primary one however is framed by the question, what is in the best interest of the child.

Generally speaking, forms of custody -- child conservatorship -- in Texas fall into two categories. There is joint managing conservatorship (JMC). And there is sole managing conservatorship (SMC).

A JMC is what would be called joint custody in other jurisdictions. Under a JMC plan, both parties have rights and responsibilities as parents. Unless there are specific conditions that dictate otherwise, a JMC is the preferred model. But even under a JMC, the court may grant one or the other parent the sole right to make certain decisions on behalf of the child. In addition, terms of visitation might not be equally balanced.

The sole managing conservatorship can be likened to sole custody. Under SMC, one parent alone has the legal right to make decisions that affect the child. This might be sought or granted if one of the parents doesn't want JMC responsibilities. Other reasons a court might grant an SMC might be if the other parent has a history of criminal activity or substance abuse, a history of violence or just hasn't been a presence in the child's life.

To be sure you know your options and frame a plan that a court is likely to accept as being in your child's best interest be sure to consult an attorney.

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