Child Custody in Texas
In Texas, child custody is often the number one disputed topic in Family Law courts. The determination of parental rights and possession time of the child is the main cause of frequent disagreements. If you spend any considerable amount of time in family law you will hear the term “custody” more times than you can remember, but you will never see the term “custody” in a Texas order. Contrary to popular belief, the word “custody” is not a legal term in Texas. Generally, when people talk about custody they are talking about the rights and duties of the parent and the physical possession of the child. In Texas, we separate the two into “Conservatorship” and “Possession and Access”. Conservatorship is used to describe the rights and responsibilities of each parent. Possession and Access is used to describe the visitation schedule the parents will have with the child.
Types of Conservatorship
Joint Managing Conservatorship (JMC)
Sole Managing Conservatorship (SMC)
Possessory Conservatorship (PC)
What Rights and duties are included in conservatorship?
Some of the rights and duties included are:
- The right to have physical possession, to direct the moral and religious training, and to designate the residence of the child;
- The duty to support the child, including providing the child with clothing, food, shelter, medical and dental care, and education;
- The right to receive and give receipt for payments for the support of the child and to hold or disburse those funds for the benefit of the child
Joint Managing Conservatorship
In Texas, the presumption is that both parents should be appointed joint managing conservators (JMC). This means both parents share certain rights and duties equally. Rights and duties awarded to the parents will be joint, separate and/or exclusive meaning one parent may be awarded the exclusive to make certain decisions on their own. One must understand that an appointment of JMC does not automatically mean both parents will have equal access and possession to the child. The determination of access and possession is set out in the possession order.
Sole Managing Conservatorship
Some reasons a parent is granted SMC would be because:
- The other parent has a history of drug, alcohol or other criminal activity;
- The other parent has been absent in the child’s life;
- The other parent has a history of family violence or neglect
Parents granted SMC have the legal right to make exclusive decisions on their own such as:
- The right to designate the primary residence of the child;
- The right to consent to medical, dental, and surgical treatment involving invasive procedures;
- The right to make decisions concerning the child’s education
- The right to receive and give receipt for periodic payments for the support of the child and to hold or disburse these funds for the benefit of the child
A parent not appointed as JMC or SMC will normally be appointed as PC. Unless limited by a court order, the PC will have certain rights and duties as outlined by the Texas Family Code.
Possession and Access
In Texas, a parent can receive a visitation schedule called possession and access to a child. Parties who agree on a visitation schedule may choose any schedule that works for their family and generally a judge will approve it. Normally if parties cannot agree a judge will normally order the parties to follow a standard or expanded standard possession schedule. The visitation schedule may be as such:
- Standard Possession Schedule
- Expanded Standard Possession Schedule
- Modified Standard Possession Schedule
- 50/50 Possession Schedule
Standard Possession Schedule
The default schedule is the standard possession schedule. In this schedule, one parent would have the child for the first, third and fifth weekends of the month (Friday at 6pm until Sunday at 6pm), Thursday during the school year (6pm to 8pm), every other holiday and thirty days in the summer.
Expanded Standard Possession Schedule
Parties agreeing to the Expanded Standard Possession Schedule receive the same as the standard possession schedule with the exception that Thursday would be overnight and first, third and fifth weekends of the month would be until Monday morning.
Modified Standard Possession Schedule
A modified standard possession schedule would include elements of the standard possession schedule with additional provisions as crafted by the parents. In some instances, the parents may choose different days and times that fit with their work schedules.
50/50 Possession Schedule
In a 50/50 Possession Schedule, both parents have equal time with their child. Some may choose to have a week on week off provision. Others may choose to have set days of the week and alternate the weekends.