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Understanding types of conservatorship for divorced Texas parents

On Behalf of | Oct 18, 2023 | Child Custody |

If you’re a Texas parent considering or preparing to divorce, you may find some of the legal terminology confusing and unfamiliar. For example, what’s often referred to in many places as legal custody is called “conservatorship” under Texas law.

Managing conservators are parents (or other designated adults) who have the right and responsibility to make major decisions for a child. These typically include things like education, medical care, religious upbringing and where a child lives.

Joint vs. sole managing conservators

Divorcing parents are often able to agree to have joint managing conservatorship (JMC) of their children after divorce. It’s not uncommon, though, for one parent to seek sole managing conservatorship (SMC) of a child. If parents can’t agree on an arrangement, a judge will need to decide. Even when they do agree, a judge needs to provide the final sign-off.

A JMC is generally considered the option that’s in a child’s best interest. That’s why if a parent is seeking an SMC, they’ll need to provide evidence that the other parent shouldn’t share in this responsibility (unless that other parent doesn’t seek it for some reason).

A parent who isn’t a managing conservator of their child may still be granted what’s known as possessory conservatorship. That means they’re allowed to spend time with the child (known as “possession and access”), but not to have any major decision-making responsibilities.

What is a split managing conservatorship the best option?

Although it’s rare, parents will sometimes agree to be “split managing conservators.” This is sometimes referred to as split custody in other states. It means that each parent will take responsibility for one or more of their children.

It’s often used if there’s been turmoil between siblings and/or parents and it’s decided that siblings are better off living apart or that one or more of the kids is better off with one parent rather than the other. It can be used for more practical reasons as well – such as one child who may be in a special school or program that’s closer to one parent than the other.

It’s typically best when divorcing parents in Texas, as in all states, can negotiate a parenting arrangement that’s best for their children. If they can’t, they need to be prepared to make their case to a judge who will determine what’s best. Either way, it’s important to have experienced legal guidance.