What’s the Difference Between Sole and Joint Managing Conservatorship in Texas?

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In Texas, both divorced parents can be named joint managing conservators, or one parent may be appointed a sole managing conservator. Many people do not understand the difference between these two types of conservatorship in Texas.

What makes things even more complicated is the fact that, unlike other states, Texas law uses the term “conservatorship” instead of “custody.” Below, we will discuss everything you need to know about sole and joint managing conservatorship in Texas.

If you are getting divorced and your marriage involves minor children, it is imperative to consult with a Lampasas child custody attorney to protect your rights and help you establish a fair child custody arrangement.

Joint Managing Conservatorship vs. Sole Managing Conservatorship

Texas courts prefer to name parents joint managing conservators when they get divorced. Parents may become joint managing conservators either by reaching an agreement on their own or having a judge decide for them.

Under Texas Family Code § 153.001, joint managing conservatorship is considered the best custody arrangement for the kids because children should have continuing and frequent contact with both parents even after their divorce.

However, if there is evidence of child abuse, neglect, family violence, or other factors that pose a danger to the child’s safety, a court may name one parent a sole managing conservator. When this happens, the other parent becomes a possessory conservator.

Sole and joint managing conservators have different rights and duties of raising their kids.

What Factors Do Texas Courts Consider When Appointing Parents as Joint/Sole Managing Conservators?

When determining the most appropriate custody arrangement, courts consider the following factors in determining what would be in the child’s best interests:

  • How each custody arrangement would affect the child’s needs and their physical, emotional, and psychological development;

  • The parents’ willingness and ability to compromise and make joint decisions;

  • Whether any parent has a history of child abuse, neglect, abandonment, or family violence;

  • Whether each parent encourage a positive relationship between the other parent and their child;

  • Each parent’s involvement in the upbringing of the child before the child custody case;

  • Each parent’s location; and

  • The child’s expressed preference if the child is at least 12 years of age.

These and certain other factors are taken into account by Texas courts when deciding whether to name parents as joint or sole managing conservators. Consult with an attorney to discuss your particular case and help you protect your best interests during your custody case.

What is Sole Managing Conservatorship?

When one parent is named a sole managing conservator, they have many exclusive rights, including the right to designate the primary residence of the child as well as make medical decisions.

It is rare for Texas courts to appoint one parent a sole managing conservator. However, if there is a history of child abuse, abandonment, neglect, or family violence, a court is likely to determine that sole managing conservatorship would be in the best interests of the child.

The other parent is appointed a possessory conservator. In Texas, possessory conservators retain some of the rights, including the right to see their kids.

What is Joint Managing Conservatorship?

When a court finds that joint managing conservatorship is the best custody arrangement for the child (in most cases it is), both parents will share equal rights and duties regarding child care. Often, however, certain exclusive rights are awarded to one parent even when both parents are named joint managing conservators.

Typically, one of the joint conservators is awarded the exclusive right to determine where the child should live. That parent is known as the custodial parent.

What Rights Do Joint Managing Conservators Share?

Since joint managing conservatorship is awarded in child custody cases more frequently, it makes sense to wonder what rights are shared between joint managing conservators.

Some of the rights that joint managing conservators share may include:

  • The right to make decisions regarding education

  • The right to make medical decisions and consent to medical, surgical, and dental procedures

  • The right to make legal decisions on behalf of the child, including to represent the child in lawsuits and legal actions

  • The right to consent to an underage child’s marriage

  • The right to consent to enlist in military service

  • The right to access the child’s medical record

  • The right to discuss the child’s educational status and welfare with school officials

  • The right to attend the child’s school activities

  • The right to be named the child’s emergency contact

This is not a complete list of rights that joint managing conservators share.

Can I Obtain Full Custody of My Child in Texas?

Previously, we discussed whether you can obtain full custody of your child in a Texas divorce. While it is possible that you could be named a sole managing conservator, you cannot obtain full custody of your child unless you can demonstrate clear and convincing evidence proving that this arrangement would be in the best interests of the child.

In order to be appointed a sole managing conservator in your child conservatorship case, you will need to prove that the other parent fails or refuses to act in the best interests of your child.

You may be able to obtain full custody of your child if any of the following is true:

  1. You can prove that you being a sole managing conservator would be in the child’s best interests (e.g., the other parent poses a danger to the child or has a history of child abuse or violence);

  2. The court has terminated the other parent’s parental rights; or

  3. The other parent has voluntarily relinquished his/her parental rights.

Speak with a Lampasas Child Custody Attorney for Free

You can receive a free consultation with our Lampasas child custody attorneys at The Law Office of Brett H. Pritchard to discuss how you can become a sole managing conservator or otherwise obtain full custody of your child. Our lawyers are committed to helping you achieve the best possible outcome in your custody case. Call 254-501-4040 for a free case evaluation.


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