Key Child Custody Terms in Texas

The legal terms used in child custody proceedings are different from the every day terms such as “custody” and “visitation.”  This article provides definitions for some of the more common terms you will likely encounter during a divorce proceeding with children in Texas.

JOINT MANAGING CONSERVATORSHIP. “Joint managing conservatorship” means the sharing of the rights and duties of a parent by two parties, ordinarily the parents, even if the exclusive right to make certain decisions may be awarded to one party.  Texas has a presumption that appointing both parents joint managing conservators is in the best interests of the child(ren).

PARENT. “Parent” means the mother, a man presumed to be the father, a man legally determined to be the father, a man who has been adjudicated to be the father by a court of competent jurisdiction, a man who has acknowledged his paternity under applicable law, or an adoptive mother or father. The term does not include a parent as to whom the parent-child relationship has been terminated except that, for the purpose of establishing, determining the terms of, modifying, or enforcing an order, a reference in this title to a parent includes a person ordered to pay child support or to provide medical support or dental support for a child.

PARENTING COORDINATOR. “Parenting coordinator” means an impartial third party appointed by the court to aid the parties in:

  1. identifying disputed issues;
  2. reducing misunderstandings;
  3. clarifying priorities;
  4. exploring possibilities for problem solving;
  5. developing methods of collaboration in parenting;
  6. understanding parenting plans and reaching agreements about parenting issues to be included in a parenting plan;
  7. complying with the court’s order regarding conservatorship or possession of and access to the child;
  8. implementing parenting plans;
  9. obtaining training regarding problem solving, conflict management, and parenting skills; and
  10. settling disputes regarding parenting issues and reaching a proposed joint resolution or statement of intent regarding those disputes.

PARENTING FACILITATOR. “Parenting facilitator” means an impartial third party appointed by the court to aid the parties in all or some of the same areas as a Parenting Coordinator, but also appointed with the power to monitor the parents’s compliance.

PARENTING PLAN. “Parenting plan” means the provisions of a final court order (which may be based upon an agreement between the parties) that:

  1. set out rights and duties of a parent or a person acting as a parent in relation to the child;
  2. provide for periods of possession of and access to the child, which may be the terms set out in the standard possession order and any amendments to the standard possession order agreed to by the parties or found by the court to be in the best interest of the child;
  3. provide for child support; and
  4. optimize the development of a close and continuing relationship between each parent and the child.

POSSESSORY CONSERVATOR. The court shall appoint as a possessory conservator a parent who is not appointed as a sole or joint managing conservator unless it finds that the appointment is not in the best interest of the child and that parental possession or access would endanger the physical or emotional welfare of the child.  The Possessory Conservator has the same Rights of a Parent at All Times and the right to possession of the child(ren) consistent with the guidelines in the Standard Possession Order or an approved agreed parenting plan.

RIGHTS OF A PARENT AT ALL TIMES. Unless limited by court order, a parent appointed as a conservator of a child has at all times the right:

  1. to receive information from any other conservator of the child concerning the health, education, and welfare of the child;
  2. to confer with the other parent to the extent possible before making a decision concerning the health, education, and welfare of the child;
  3. of access to medical, dental, psychological, and educational records of the child;
  4. to consult with a physician, dentist, or psychologist of the child;
  5. to consult with school officials concerning the child’s welfare and educational status, including school activities;
  6. to attend school activities;
  7. to be designated on the child’s records as a person to be notified in case of an emergency;
  8. to consent to medical, dental, and surgical treatment during an emergency involving an immediate danger to the health and safety of the child; and
  9. to manage the estate of the child to the extent the estate has been created by the parent or the parent’s family.

RIGHTS AND DUTIES DURING PERIOD OF POSSESSION. Unless limited by court order, a parent appointed as a conservator of a child has the following rights and duties during the period that the parent has possession of the child:

  1. the duty of care, control, protection, and reasonable discipline of the child;
  2. the duty to support the child, including providing the child with clothing, food, shelter, and medical and dental care not involving an invasive procedure;
  3. the right to consent for the child to medical and dental care not involving an invasive procedure; and
  4. the right to direct the moral and religious training of the child.

RIGHT TO DESIGNATE PRIMARY RESIDENCE.  Even in cases where parents are appointed joint managing conservators, the court is required by law to appoint one of them the exclusive right to determine the primary residence of the child. The court may place restrictions on the geographic area in which the parent may designate the child reside.

SOLE MANAGING CONSERVATOR. Unless limited by court order, a parent appointed as sole managing conservator of a child has the following exclusive rights:

  1. the right to designate the primary residence of the child;
  2. the right to consent to medical, dental, and surgical treatment involving invasive procedures;
  3. the right to consent to psychiatric and psychological treatment;
  4. the right to receive and give receipt for periodic payments for the support of the child and to hold or disburse these funds for the benefit of the child;
  5. the right to represent the child in legal action and to make other decisions of substantial legal significance concerning the child;
  6. the right to consent to marriage and to enlistment in the armed forces of the United States;
  7. the right to make decisions concerning the child’s education;
  8. the right to the services and earnings of the child; and
  9. except when a guardian of the child’s estate or a guardian or attorney ad litem has been appointed for the child, the right to act as an agent of the child in relation to the child’s estate if the child’s action is required by a state, the United States, or a foreign government.

STANDARD POSSESSION ORDER. Texas law sets forth a standard possession order that is presumed to be in the child(ren)’s best interests.  The order varies based on the geographic distance between the parents’ residences.  You can read more about the Standard Possession Order here.

UCCJEA.  The Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act provides for continuity in initiating, enforcing, or modifying child custody decisions by providing rules for deciding the proper forum for child custody issues when a child and/or the child’s parents have moved to different states.

Bryan Willis

Bryan Willis

Bryan Willis is a Tyler lawyer who represents clients in the areas of Divorce, Probate, Estate Planning, and Business Law.
Bryan Willis

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