Child custody is one of the most highly contested areas when couples split up. Recently, many people have relocated to Texas from other states like California. If you’re a recent arrival to the state of Texas, you should understand that our child custody laws are significantly different from many other states. For example, Texas uses very distinctive terminology for things like custody and visitation.
What is Conservatorship?
In Texas, child custody is called conservatorship. This is different from most states, which have custodians. Conservatorship can be granted to one parent or shared by both. When one parent has custody, that’s known as a sole managing conservatorship or SMC. This is less common than shared custody, or a joint managing conservatorship, or JMC.
The conservator of a child is empowered to make decisions about things including where the child will live and how they will be educated. A child’s conservator is also the party who can consent to medical or dental treatment on their behalf. In a joint conservatorship, the judge will specify which rights each parent has, including those that they share.
Usually, Texas courts will award a JMC to parents. But there are circumstances where custody may be given to one parent. This usually occurs when there is a history of abuse, or one parent has been very uninvolved in the child’s life. Another circumstance where a sole managing conservatorship might be granted is when the parents cannot agree about key issues like education or religion.
When one parent has not been granted custody, they will likely still receive possession of and access to a child. This is known by the term “visitation” in other states like California. If a parent has not been awarded conservatorship, they will almost certainly have visitation rights. The exception to this is if the parent poses a danger to the child. The schedule for possession and access will be set by a judge. They will base it on guidelines used by the family court system and modify it for the specific case.