What is Joint Conservatorship in Texas?
Texas Custodial Parents
The common meaning of the term “conservator” is an individual appointed by a court to oversee the preservation of the property of an incapacitated person. But in Texas, a custodial parent is referred to as a conservator while custody arrangements for divorced or separated parents are called conservatorships. Instead of visitation rights, Texas non-custodial parents maintain the rights for child access and possession.
Texas Child Custody Agreements
Texas conservatorship rules are similar to other states’ child custody agreements, decisions and orders. But the terminology used is different from those of other states because traditional terminology was abandoned after the Texas Family Code was codified. Parents are allowed by the court to design a custody plan but a court has to approve it. The parents can go to trial if they cannot resolve their conservatorship disputes.
Remember the court requires a written agreement that reflects the best interests of the child. The two types of conservatorship in Texas are the joint managing conservatorship and sole managing conservatorship.
Joint Conservatorship Texas
Joint conservatorship is an arrangement that every divorced or separated couple has to abide to. That means that a court may appoint you and your ex as joint managing conservators even if both of you do not approve. This is done by the court in the best interest of the child.
The court will consider the following factors before ordering a joint conservatorship:
- Whether the child’s, psychological, emotional and physical needs benefit from the appointment of joint managing conservators
- The parent’s willingness to prioritize the best interests of the child
- The willingness of each parent to encourage and accept a positive relationship between the other parent and the child
- The location or the geographical proximity of the parties. The court can decide where the child’s primary residence should be or grant one joint managing conservator the right to establish the child’s primary residency.
- The court considers the preference of children over the age of 12. But this does not in any way dilute the court’s commitment to the best interest of the child irrespective of age.
However, this does not mean that the court will award equal physical possession to both parents. Just like in other states, the court will appoint one parent as the primary managing conservator. This is the parent that the child will live with and is responsible for everyday care of the child.
In other states, the primary managing conservator is known as the “custodial parent”. The noncustodial parent is referred to as the “possessory conservator” in Texas. Both parents have the right to make important decisions affecting the child. These decisions include things such as selecting doctors, place of residence, religious instruction, permission for treatment of medical and mental conditions and education.
Sole managing conservatorship is only considered when there is family violence or substance abuse or one parent has a history of crime. Any characteristic that could interfere with co-parenting like mental illness could also make a judge conclude that sole managing conservatorship is a preferable arrangement. In a sole managing conservatorship, one parent is the decision maker. Ask your family law attorney to clarify this information further, if needed.
Attorney Daryl Longworth is a family law attorney licensed by the State Bar of Texas. He is the senior attorney at The Longworth Law Firm in Houston, Texas. Mr. Longworth is a graduate of the University of Houston Law Center. Prior to becoming a licensed attorney focusing on divorce law and family law in Texas, Mr. Longworth was a police officer for the Houston Police Department.