Child custody cases are fraught with emotion; parents can be angry, sad and confused. Add to this the fears and frustrations of a complicated legal process, and it makes sense that these cases often become heated.
One way to alleviate some of the anxiety of this experience is to understand more about Texas child custody laws. For instance, every parent should know that there are different kinds of custody.
Conservatorship and access and possession
Texas laws refer to custody as conservatorship, and they refer to visitation as access and possession.
- Conservatorship grants a parent the legal right to make decisions for a child. A parent with this type of custody can decide matters including a child’s medical treatment, education and residence.
- Orders for access and possession (or visitation) allow a parent to spend time with a child. These are established in a standard possession order.
A parent could have legal rights, parenting time, both or neither: custody is not an all-or-nothing matter in Texas. In most cases, both parents have some degree of custodial rights.
Joint and sole conservatorships
When both parents have legal rights and responsibilities, it is a joint managing conservatorship (JMC). A JMC arrangement does not necessarily mean both parents have equal duties or that they have to make decisions jointly; it means they both have parental responsibilities and permissions.
When only one parent has the right to make decisions, it is a sole managing conservatorship (SMC). In an SMC arrangement, one parent has the authority to decide matters like where a child lives. A court might award an SMC in situations where a parent is absent, abusive, unfit or unwilling to be part of a child’s life.
Making it all make sense
If you are a parent facing a child custody case in Texas, you should know that there are several potential outcomes.
Often, parents will share duties, and both have access to a child, though the specific details of these arrangements depend on the details of their situation.
That said, there are situations in which it is not in a child’s best interests for a parent to have legal rights or visitation.
This information can make it easier for parents to understand this process and manage their expectations as they navigate this charged legal matter.