Child Custody

In Texas, custody generally falls into two categories: sole managing conservatorship and joint managing conservatorship. Conservatorship, commonly known as custody, is the word used to describe the legal rights and responsibilities of a parent.

Child Custody

What is Sole Custody (Sole Managing Conservatorship)?

Sole Managing Conservatorship (SMC), sometimes referred to as sole custody, means the court grants only one parent the legal right to make certain decisions concerning the child. In order for the court to grant SMC the person requesting SMC must overcome the presumption of joint managing conservatorship being in the best interest of the child.

How can you overcome the presumption of Joint Managing Conservatorship being in the best interest of the child?

You can overcome the presumption of joint managing conservatorship and get sole managing conservatorship if you can show one of the following:

  • The other parent has a history of family violence, neglect.
  • The other parent has a history of drugs, alcohol or other criminal activity.
  • The other parent has been absent from the child’s life.
  • the appointment would significantly impair the child’s physical health or emotional development

What are the some of the rights a sole managing conservatorship can get?

A Sole Managing Conservator gives that parent certain rights such as:

  • Deciding the primary residence of the child;
  • Consenting to medical and dental treatment;
  • Consenting to psychiatric and psychological treatment;
  • Being designated on the child’s records as a person to be contacted in the event of an emergency;
  • The right to represent the child in legal action and to make other decisions of substantial legal significance concerning the child;
  • The right to consent to marriage and to enlistment in the armed forces of the United States;
  • The right to attend school activities;
  • The right to the services and earnings of the child;
  • Receiving child support; and
  • Making decisions concerning the child’s education.

If the other parent gets sole managing conservatorship, can you still get visitations?

If one parent gets sole custody or sole managing conservatorship, the other parent may still be entitled to visitations and the courts will generally allow some visitations. The visitations can be supervised or unsupervised depending on the facts of the case and whether the court believes the safety of the child would be at risk unless visitations are supervised.

What if I’m not the child’s parent but I have been appointed as a managing conservator?

Non-parental Managing Conservator

It is very rare that when there are competent parents, a nonparent would be appointed as a managing conservator. However, under certain circumstances such as when parents have extreme drug and alcohol abuse problems. Non-parental managing conservators such as a licensed agency or a competent adult other than a parent may possess the same rights and duties as a parental conservator if they are appointed by the court as a conservator.

What is Joint Custody (Joint Managing Conservatorship)?

Joint managing conservatorship (JMC) is when the court grants both parties the rights and duties to make certain decisions except where the child lives (this can only be done by one party). This is presumed to be in the best interest of the child.  Once the court grants JMC they have to appoint a managing and possessory conservator.  The managing conservator makes major decisions effecting schooling, medical care, religion, and residence of the child. The Possessory conservator is the person who has access to the child & makes emergency decisions while in their custody. There can be only one managing conservator and it must be a parent, licensed agency, or a competent adult. However, the court may appoint more than one possessory conservator. So you have either agreed to joint managing conservatorship or the court will order joint managing conservatorship based on the best interest of the child. The court may consider the child’s desires, parental stability, environment of the home, and domestic violence. The court may not favor either parent based on gender or marital status. Below you will find rights and duties shared by the managing and possessory conservators.

  • The right to receive information from any other conservator of the children concerning the health, education, and welfare of the children;
  • The right to confer with the other parent to the extent possible before making a decision concerning the health, education, and welfare of the children;
  • The right of access to medical, dental, psychological, and educational records of the children;
  • The right to consult with a physician, dentist, or psychologist of the children;
  • The right to consult with school officials concerning the children’s welfare and educational status, including school activities
  • The right to attend school activities;
  • The right to be designated on the children’s records as a person to be notified in case of an emergency;
  • The right to consent to medical, dental, and surgical treatment during an emergency involving an immediate danger to the health and safety of the children; and
  • The right to manage the estates of the children to the extent the estates have been created by the parent or the parent’s family.
  • The duty to inform the other conservator of the children in a timely manner of significant information concerning the health, education, and welfare of the children; and
  • The duty to inform the other conservator of the children if the conservator resides with for at least thirty days, marries, or intends to marry a person who the conservator knows is registered as a sex offender under chapter 62 of the Code of Criminal Procedure or is currently charged with an offense for which on conviction the person would be required to register under that chapter.

You got joint custody, so now what? Who gets your child/children on what days?

In Texas, when it comes to parental time with the children, the courts follow the Standard Possession Order (SPO), which is presumed to be in the best interest of a child. A court can vary from the standard possession order based on the circumstances of a particular family or if the parties agree. There are certain expansions that can be requested to the standard possession order in Texas, resulting in an extended possession order.  Below you will find the details of both a standard and extended possession order.

Standard possession order

When parents are granted joint custody the court requires a possession order. Parents with joint custody can agree to any schedule that works for both of them. If they can’t agree, then the court requires them to follow the Standard Possession Order (SPO). The terms of the basic SPO allows the noncustodial parent to have possession of the child a couple of hours every Thursday night; on the first, third and fifth weekends of each month from Friday afternoon when the child is dismissed from school (or 6PM) until the following Monday morning; on alternating holidays, and at least one month in the summer to be used on two separate occasions. The SPO tells the parents where the exchanges of the child will take place (generally at the managing conservator’s place of residence), and where the child will spend the holidays. The court does not have to follow the SPO if a child is under three years old or if the SPO is not in the best interest of the child.

Holidays under the SPO:

CHRISTMAS:

The possessory conservator shall have possession of the child in even-numbered years beginning at 6 p.m. on the day the child is dismissed from school for the Christmas school vacation and ending at noon on December 28, and the managing conservator shall have possession for the same period in odd-numbered years

THANKSGIVING:

The possessory conservator shall have possession of the child in odd-numbered years, beginning at 6 p.m. on the day the child is dismissed from school before Thanksgiving and ending at 6 p.m. on the following Sunday, and the managing conservator shall have possession for the same period in even-numbered years

BIRTHDAY:

The parent not otherwise entitled under this standard possession order to present possession of a child on the child’s birthday shall have possession of the child beginning at 6 p.m. and ending at 8 p.m. on that day, provided that the parent picks up the child from the residence of the conservator entitled to possession and returns the child to that same place

FATHER’S DAY:

The father shall have possession of the child beginning at 6 p.m. on the Friday preceding Father’s Day and ending on Father’s Day at 6 p.m.

MOTHER’S DAY:

The mother shall have possession of the child beginning at 6 p.m. on the Friday preceding Mother’s Day and ending on Mother’s Day at 6 p.m.

Extended possession order

When a parent is given a SPO, he/she may ask for an extended possession order.  Under the Extended SPO, a parent can have the child on Thursday night when the child (ren) is dismissed from school or 6PM until the following Monday morning on the first, third, and fifth weekend of the month; and Thursday night after the child is dismissed from school or 6PM, until the next day in the morning.

When parents live more than 100 miles apart

When parents live more than 100 miles apart, the parent who gets visitations may elect an alternate option to the 1st, 3rd, and 5th weekend of the month. This alternate possession period may be elected by giving a 90 day advance notice to the other parent. The alternate possession period is as follows: One weekend per month and the weekend must be elected by giving a 14 day notice to the other parent.
Also, when parents live more than 100 miles apart, the possessory parent who gets the SPO would get every Spring Break. Other holidays are unaffected by the distance between parents.

What are your rights and duties when the child is in your possession?

Now, that we have determined each parent will have their own allotted time to spend with the child(ren) there are duties and rights that the parents have when the children are in their custody. These rights include, the duty of care, control, protection, and reasonable discipline of the children; the duty to support the children, including providing the children with clothing, food, shelter, and medical and dental care not involving an invasive procedure; the right to consent for the children to medical and dental care not involving an invasive procedure; and the right to direct the moral and religious training of the children.

Have questions on custody related issues? Contact the A.T. Law Office immediately.

If you need a child custody attorney in Spring, TX, North Houston, Woodlands, Klein, Tomball, Cypress, FM 1960, Galveston, and surrounding areas, call the A.T. Law Firm for a free consultation. We also travel to different counties including but not limited to Harris County, Montgomery County, Liberty County, Chambers County, Galveston County, Ford Bend County, Waller County, and Brazoria County. Contact the A.T. Law Office to set up a free consultation.

Divorce is rarely easy, with issues regarding your children to dividing up assets, it can be a difficult and very distressing time for all involved.

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