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Child custody and Texas rules of conservatorship

The word "conservator" is commonly used to describe an individual appointed by a court to oversee the care of a property or of an incapacitated person. In Texas, conservator is the legal term for a custodial parent. Conservatorships are custody arrangements for separated and divorced parents. Similarly, non-custodial parents receive rights of child possession and access rather than visitation rights.

Despite the difference in terms, Texas conservatorship rules are similar to child custody agreements, decisions and orders in other states. Houston parents may design a custody plan, subject to court approval, or turn to a family law judge to resolve a conservatorship dispute. The written agreement is binding and must reflect the best interests of the child.

Texas has two types of conservatorships that elsewhere might be called sole or joint custody. The default arrangement -- the one courts presume before considering others -- is called a joint managing conservatorship. Under this plan, parents who live apart share the responsibilities of parenthood, although duties and rights assigned to each parent may differ.

In joint managing conservatorships, both parents have the right to make important decisions. Choices include a child's place of residence, the selection of doctors, permission for treatment of medical and mental health conditions and education, including religious instruction. Visitation terms for non-custodial parents are spelled out in standard possession orders.

Texas judges sometimes conclude that a sole managing conservatorship is a preferable arrangement. Under these agreements, one parent is the decision maker. As we discuss on our website, sole conservatorship may be ordered when there is significant parental conflict or one parent has a history of crime, violence, substance abuse or some other characteristic that would interfere with co-parenting, like mental illness.

The conservatorship rules apply when parents dispute initial custody terms or wish to modify them, due to a change of circumstances. Attorneys assist parents with resolving custody conflicts and represent them when conservatorship issues are in a judge's hands.

Source: FindLaw, "Child Custody in Texas" Sep. 09, 2014

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