In Texas, a parent’s legal right to their children is conservatorship. The type of conservatorship the court awards to each parent determines the extent of their parental rights and obligations. The default in Texas family courts is usually joint managing conservatorship (JMC).
JMC is a legal arrangement that allows both parents to remain active in their children’s lives. They both have the right to make big decisions for their children. Each parent has a say in where their children go to school and what kind of health care they will receive. However, that does not necessarily mean both parents have the right to decide where the children will live. The court can award a parent with primary custody, meaning the parent is the custodial parent and they spend the most time with the children.
What is a custodial parent?
A custodial parent is the one who can legally decide on the children’s primary residence. It is an exclusive right to primary physical custody or possession of the children. The noncustodial parent can still have possession rights through a standard possession order that details when and how often the children can spend physical time with them. They must also still be a part of the decision-making process regarding the children.
Primary custody is not the same as full custody. Full custody in Texas is sole managing conservatorship. If the court finds reason to believe that one parent is unfit to decide for the children, they can award the other parent as the sole managing conservator. Only the parent with sole managing conservatorship has the exclusive physical and legal authority to determine all methods of child-rearing that can impact their children. The parent who is not a conservator can still have visitation rights. The court can also order them to pay child support.
Do you want sole managing conservatorship?
If you want to pursue full custody or sole managing conservatorship of your children, it is more difficult than getting an award of primary custody. You would have the burden of proving your former spouse is an unsuitable parent. The court will base any decision on conservatorship and possession on the children’s best interests. Therefore, you must prove that awarding the other parent any rights to the children can significantly impair the children’s physical, mental and emotional well-being.
Obtaining sole managing conservatorship, no matter how challenging, is not impossible. The evidence should only be clear and convincing enough to substantiate the ruling.