any parents inquire about obtaining “sole custody” of a child. This can mean different things to different people. In Texas, we use the term “conservatorship” or “conservator” rather than “custody.” Here, we will explain the basics about conservatorship rights in Texas.

Texas law will always prioritize the best interests of the children. When the parents of a child separate or get divorced, a court case will determine what is best for the child. We call this a suit affecting the parent-child relationship or “SAPCR.” The goal of these suits is to minimize conflict between the parents and promote stability for the child.

In a SAPCR, the court will appoint both parents as conservators, except in extreme circumstances. The court generally has two options.

  • Option 1: The court can appoint both parents as joint managing conservators.
  • Option 2: The court can appoint one parent as sole managing conservator and award the other parent limited rights and visitation as a “possessory conservator.”

When a child lives in two households, a SAPCR case will also assign parental rights between the parents. For instance, the court can give one parent the right to make educational decisions for the child, including where the child attends school. The court can also require the parents to make these decisions together. Other parental rights include the right to receive child support, the right to make major medical and psychological decisions for the child, and the right to determine where the child lives. A judge generally has wide discretion when assigning these rights between the parents.

In the vast majority of cases, the parents will be appointed as joint managing conservators of their children. This often occurs through an agreement of the parents, and Texas law presumes this is best for the children. Courts generally prefer that both parents have a role in raising their children.

However, there are some circumstances that can justify giving one parent sole custody. These can include:

  • Where one parent has been abusive towards the other parent or a child. This includes incidents of domestic violence and other abuse.
  • Severe alcohol or drug abuse by one parent.
  • Criminal behavior by one parent.
  • Extreme interference by one parent with the other parent’s relationship with the child.
  • Where the parents have extreme difficulty making decisions together.

When a parent is given sole conservatorship, the court will also usually give them the sole right to make all major decisions for the children.

Although Texas law does not favor sole custody, these are some circumstances when it may be appropriate. Here at Thompson Salinas Londergan, we can discuss all conservatorship options available in your case.

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