Conservatorship is the legal designation that each parent has with regard to their child. In Texas, unless there are concerns about the safety and fitness of a parent, the law presumes that the parents should be appointed joint managing conservators of their child. This designation gives each parent the right to be equally involved in their child’s life and to make decisions on behalf of their child.
Some of the rights typically granted to each parent under a joint managing conservatorship are:
- The right to make educational decisions for the child.
- The right to seek medical treatment for the child.
- The right to consent for the child to have surgery.
- The right to take the child to a counselor, psychologist or psychiatrist.
The Right to Primary Custody of the Child
Most disputes in custody cases or divorces are focused on the right to have “primary custody” of the child. This right allows a parent to determine where the child lives most of the time. Depending on the possession schedule that the non-custodial parent receives, the time that the child spends with each parent may be similar, regardless of which parent is awarded primary custody of the child. The main benefits of being awarded primary custody of the child are the ability to choose which school the child attends and to receive child support from the other parent.
When a Joint Managing Conservatorship is Not Appropriate
In situations where one parent is determined not to be safe or appropriate, the court may appoint one parent the sole managing conservator of the child and the other parent a possessory conservator.
Circumstances that could lead to such a designation include:
- A parent being addicted to drugs or alcohol.
- A parent having certain criminal charges.
- A parent having a history of domestic violence.
- A parent being uninvolved or absent from the child’s life for a long period of time.
When a parent is appointed the sole managing conservator of the child, they are granted the exclusive right to make all decisions for the child, including the rights mentioned above. The parent granted possessory conservatorship of the child will have the right to possession of the child, to receive information from the other parent and from the child’s school, doctors and counselors.