This article provides an overview of the differences between joint managing conservatorship and sole managing conservatorship for child custody under Texas law.
What is Conservatorship?
Conservatorship refers to a court ordered relationship between a child and a competent adult. In most cases the adult appointed as a conservator is a parent but that is not always the case.
There are several different types of conservators:
- Managing Conservator
- Possessory Conservator
- Sole Managing Conservator
- Joint Managing Conservators
A managing conservator is someone with court ordered decision making rights for a child. You can read more about the rights and duties of a conservator here.
A managing conservator is either a sole managing conservator or a joint managing conservator.
A possessory conservator is anyone granted a right of possession and access to a child without decision making rights. The possessory conservator still has certain duties during his or her period of possession.
A managing conservator has these rights of possession and access as well.
When a court only appoints one managing conservator, we call that person a sole managing conservator.
When a court appoints two or more managing conservators, we call those people joint managing conservators and the decision making rights are allocated between the joint managing conservators.
How Rights Are Allocated Between Joint Managing Conservators
Courts allocated decision making rights between joint managing conservators in one of three ways:
- Exclusive decision making right.
- Independent decision making right.
- Joint decision making right.
A conservator with exclusive decision making right in any area has sole authority to make those types of decisions. A common example is a conservator with the exclusive right to determine a child’s primary residence.
Independent decision making rights means that either conservator may make decisions on those issues during their period of possession. A common example is independent decision making rights for medical issues.
Joint decision making means that neither conservator may make a decision in that area without the agreement of the other conservator.
How Courts Decide Between Sole Managing Conservatorship vs. Joint Managing Conservatorship
Any decision a court makes concerning children is always made with the best interests of the child at the forefront.
Texas law creates certain presumptions that impact how a court decides issues of conservatorship.
Under Texas law there is a presumption that a fit parent is entitled to managing conservatorship of his or her child. Texas law also presumes that the appointment of the parents of a child as joint managing conservators is in the best interests of the child.
Because of those presumptions, Texas law requires a court to appoint a parent or both parents managing conservators of a child. The only exception is if the court finds that the appointment would significantly impair the child’s physical health or emotional development.
These presumptions make it very difficult for grandparents or other family members to seek conservatorship.
In addition, the court ordered terms for conservatorship are subject to modification in the future.
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