The most emotional and combative issues in family law are arguably those involving the parent-child relationship. In Texas, child custody is referred to as conservatorship. This issue will need to be addressed if you and the other parent of your child are divorcing or separating. How conservatorship is resolved will have a major impact on you and your child’s future.
At the Youngberg Law Firm, we know what’s at stake in conservatorship cases. Where possible, we work to achieve joint parenting plans that everyone can live with. But if litigation is inevitable, we confront your case head-on and aggressively represent you and your child’s best interests.
Understanding the Terminology in Conservatorship Cases
Most people use the word “custody” when discussing family law matters involving parents and their children. But if you’re involved with a court case, you can expect to see more complex legal terminology used instead. These are some of the terms you should know:
- Conservator: an individual responsible for raising and making decisions for a child. This is usually, but not always, the natural parents.
- Managing conservatorship: this is essentially legal custody (decision-making rights), and it is further broken down into “joint managing conservatorship” and “sole managing conservatorship.”
- Joint managing conservatorship: this means both parents are equally responsible for and have custodial rights over, the child.
- Sole managing conservatorship: in this arrangement, one parent holds the majority of the major decision-making rights over the child while the other parent is designated a possessory, or non-managing, conservator.
- Possessory conservatorship: This is for a parent who has more restricted decision-making rights for the child.
- Possession and Access: This term covers all visitation with the child, including the decision as to where the child will primarily reside.
Texas cases concerning children begin with a presumption in favor of joint managing conservatorship. However, circumstances may arise in which the court determines that this arrangement is not best for the child. All conservatorship decisions are made with the best interests of the child in mind.
Best Interests of the Child
Courts are concerned first and foremost with the best interests of the child, which is why this is the primary objective of every conservatorship case. This standard will affect how conservatorship will be shared (if at all) between parents; how visitation will be set; the child’s living arrangements; and more. If one parent has a problem with drugs, alcohol, violence, finding stable residence, or anything else which can impact the child’s well-being, the court will take it into consideration.
To understand what exactly the best interests of the child will look like in your case, it helps to examine conservatorship from three distinct angles:
- The rights and duties regarding the child
- How time with the child is shared between the parents
- The financial support of the child
Rights and Duties in Conservatorship Cases
All parents have certain fundamental rights and duties regarding their children. Judges in conservatorship cases must allocate those rights and duties between the parents.
As mentioned above, in Texas it is presumed that a joint managing conservatorship is in the best interest of the child. Where this arrangement is ordered, many of the rights and duties pertaining to the child will be shared. Among those are often the following:
- The right to make educational decisions for the child
- The right to make invasive medical and dental decisions for the child
- The right to consent to psychological or psychiatric care for the child
However, these and other rights may be allocated to just one parent. A good example of a right that is generally allocated to one parent or the other is the right to establish the child’s primary residence. While it’s possible for the court to order other arrangements, it is more common for one parent or the other to hold this right exclusively
Determining how much time both parents have with the child is a significant issue in most custody cases. The most common possession schedule in Texas is the Standard Possession Schedule, which is presumed to be in the child’s best interest. Courts can adjust this schedule on a case-by-case basis, or the parties can negotiate and agree to how they will divide time. In recent years parties are agreeing more often to possession schedules which divide possession time 50/50 between the parties. Some courts are willing to order these schedules on their own as well.
The courts generally try to customize the parties’ possession schedule if for some reason, using the standard possession schedule would be unreasonable or unwise. For instance, in cases where one parent works unusual hours that don’t fit into the standard schedule. There, the court can make adjustments to the schedule.
Financial Support of the Child
The parent with whom the child primarily lives will typically be paid financial support by the other parent. This is further divided into child support and medical support.
Texas uses standard guidelines to set an amount of child support. It is based on a percentage of net income of the obligor (the parent who pays the child support). The court may vary from the guidelines in certain circumstances by awarding child support over and above the standard amounts.
With respect to medical support, one parent will be ordered to maintain health insurance for the child. Uninsured medical expenses must also be shared. These will typically either be divided 50/50 or based on the parents’ respective earning capacities.
Can the Child Decide?
Once a child reaches the age of 12, and upon request by either parent, the court will consider the child’s wishes as far as where he or she wants to live. However, the child’s wishes won’t dictate the court’s decision. It is still the court’s decision as to what kind of possession and conservatorship are in the child’s best interest.
Contact a Denton County Conservatorship Attorney Today
In the best case scenario, you and the other parent will work out a conservatorship arrangement that is best suited for everyone and which the court will approve. Of course, this doesn’t always happen. Whichever path you and your child are on, Youngberg Law Firm can help. We negotiate and draft comprehensive parenting plans that put you and your child first. Where settlement just isn’t possible, we fight for you in court. Reach out to us today and find out how we can serve you.