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Determining custody isn't child's play in Texas

Posted on May 19, 2017 in Divorce

For as long as you have been a parent, you've always done what's best for your children. Perhaps you made personal sacrifices in order to make sure your kids didn't go without. Nothing matters more to you than seeing that your children are happy and well cared for.

Now that you and your co-parent are splitting up, of course you want to remain committed to your children. However, you might have concerns about how the future is going to look for your reconfigured family. A brief overview of child custody in Texas might help answer a few questions.

Understanding the terminology of custody

The good people of Texas often have their own way of doing things, and there's no exception when it comes to child custody. In fact, rather than using the term "child custody," the courts of this state refer to "conservatorship." It follows that rather than naming a custodian, a judge names a conservator.

In Texas, there are two kinds of conservatorship: Joint managing and sole managing. You may see these referred to as JMC and SMC.

Rights and Duties of a Conservator

The conservator, though not always a parent, has the legal rights and responsibilities of a parent. As a conservator, you have the rights to:

  • Access educational, psychological and health records for your child
  • Make decisions about health issues
  • Discuss your child's welfare and activities with school officials
  • Give consent to emergency medical treatments

This is not a complete list of a conservator's rights, of course, but it gives an indication of the typical responsibilities expected of a conservator.

Joint Versus Sole Managing Conservatorship

In most cases, a judge grants joint managing conservatorship to parents who will no longer be in a relationship. Because the parents are in a JMC, they are both responsible for their child and must therefore make important decisions together. However, the judge may specify separate and joint responsibilities in some cases.

Should a judge award an SMC to one parent, that parent will make all the major life decisions for his or her child. Such arrangements are rare and usually occur only when the other parent has a history of behavior such as alcoholism, drug use, violence or neglect.

Where will my children live after our divorce or separation?

An award of JMC does not settle the question of where the kids will live. If the parents cannot agree on this, the judge will decide based on what he or she believes is best for the child.

In all likelihood, the judge will award possession and access to the parent with whom the child does not primarily reside. In most states, they call this "visitation." Based on a set of guidelines, the judge may issue a standard possession order, which is a schedule for visitation.

What future do you want for your child?

If you and your co-parent are unable to make your own arrangements, the judge will do it for you, based on his or her perception of what is right for your child. Naturally, you have your own ideas of what's right, and you should be ready to put your best foot forward in court.

For the best chance of achieving your child custody goals, however, it is wise to bring in professional support. A family law attorney who knows the courts and communities of Tarrant and Galveston counties will do all that he or she can to help you do what you know is best for your family.

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