If you and your co-parent are moving toward divorce this year, you may encounter some confusing terminology as you begin to read up on Texas law. That’s particularly true when it comes to sharing responsibility for children. For example, what many states refer to as “legal custody” of a child (the authority to make important decisions for them) is called “conservatorship” in Texas.
Parents who have the authority to make decisions regarding things like a child’s education, medical care and religious upbringing are called “managing conservators.”
Joint managing conservatorships
Most divorcing parents agree to a joint managing conservatorship (JMC) of their children. It makes sense if they’re going to share physical custody (possession) of their children that both of them can participate in making decisions that affect the way they’re raised.
Sole managing conservatorships
Sometimes, one parent is granted sole managing conservatorship (SMC) of a child. That means they alone have the right to make major decisions for them. Typically, this is granted when the other parent has little or no parenting time with the child in question. This is most often the case if that parent has a substance abuse or mental health issue, is incarcerated or chooses not to participate in their child’s life.
In some cases, one parent may be granted some possession of their child (perhaps regular parenting time rights) but not be allowed to have any managing conservatorship authority. That’s called a possessory conservatorship. This may be granted when that parent either isn’t going to be around the child enough to participate meaningfully in that decision making or is unable to make sound decisions for the child for whatever reason.
It’s generally best when divorcing parents can negotiate a conservatorship that’s in their child’s best interests rather than have to ask a judge to make the decision. Whichever situation you’re in, it helps to have sound legal guidance to understand the types of conservatorships and to effectively work toward getting the one that’s best for your child.