Understanding Your Rights and Duties as a Parent During Divorce

This article provides an overview of your rights and duties as a parent both during and after your divorce. Certain rights are vested in a parent regardless of custody decisions in a divorce and others may be modified by the divorce decree. In addition, certain rights may be exercised independently, only upon agreement of the parents, or exclusively by one parent.

This article focuses on parental rights and duties. The article does not discuss how a court makes decisions regarding child custody which affect these rights and duties. For more information on custody decisions, please read General Rules for Child Custody in a Texas Divorce.

Your Rights and Duties as A Parent

Let’s start by looking at your rights and duties as a parent. These rights and duties result from the parent-child relationship and exist regardless of whether a child’s parents are married. These rights and duties are only modified by court order – such as a divorce decree.

Your rights and duties as a parent include the following:

  • the right to physical possession, to direct the moral and religious training, and to designate the residence of the child;
  • the duty of care, control, protection, and reasonable discipline of the child;
  • the duty to support the child, including providing the child with clothing, food, shelter, medical and dental care, and education;
  • the duty to manage the estate of the child, including the right to act as an agent of the child in relation to the estate;
  • the right to the services and earnings of the child;
  • the right to consent to the child’s marriage, enlistment in the military, medical and dental care, as well as psychiatric, psychological, and surgical treatment;
  • the right to represent the child in legal action and to make other decisions of legal significance concerning the child;
  • the right to receive and give receipt for payments for the support of the child and to hold and use funds for the benefit of the child;
  • the right to inherit from and through the child;
  • the right to make decisions concerning the child’s education; and
  • any other right or duty existing between a parent and child by virtue of law.

How Conservatorship and Possession Affect Your Rights as a Parent in Divorce

When parents get divorced, these rights and duties will be modified. How they are modified will depend upon the court’s determination of the issues of conservatorship (custody and management of the children) as well as possession.

For example, certain rights and duties are allowed only to the parent appointed sole managing conservator if one parent is appointed as sole managing conservator.

However, there is a presumption in favor of appointing both parents joint managing conservators. In that case, the rights and duties must be allocated by the court as you will see below.

Even if one parent is appointed sole managing conservator, the other parent will have rights to possession and access of the children and that parent will have certain rights and duties during his or her possession of the children.

So from this point forward – the rights and duties described will depend on whether the parents are appointed Sole Managing Conservator and Possessory Conservator or Joint Managing Conservators.

Having said that – parents have certain rights at all times – regardless of conservatorship or possession. So let’s look at those first.

Your Rights and Duties as a Parent at All Times During and After Divorce

These rights vest in a parent and do not go away as a result of the divorce unless specifically modified in the divorce decree. These rights and duties exist regardless of custody decisions and do not depend on whether you have possession of your children.

Unless limited by a court order, your rights as a parent at all times during and after a divorce include 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. to have 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 you as parent or your family.

In addition, each parent has a duty to inform the other parent in a timely manner of any significant information affecting the health, education, or welfare of the children.

These rights and duties exist regardless of whether the parents are appointed joint managing conservators or if one parent is appointed sole managing conservator.

Allocation of Rights and Duties for Parents Appointed Joint Managing Conservators

When parents are appointed joint managing conservators, the court must decide which of the rights those parents have may be exercised independently, jointly, or exclusively.

Independently means that either parent may exercise his or her right on that issue without consulting with the other parent.

Jointly means that the parents cannot exercise their right without agreement with the other parent.

Exclusively means that one parent or the other has been given the exclusive right to make decisions on that issue. The most common example is the right to designate the primary residence of the child.

When parents are appointed joint managing conservators, the court will decide which rights and duties a sole managing conservator would have will be exercised independently, jointly, or exclusively by the parents. Those rights and duties are discussed in the next section.

Rights and Duties of A Parent Appointed Sole Managing Conservator

A parent appointed sole managing conservator has the exclusive right to make decisions concerning the children on the following issues:

  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 those 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 enlistment in the military;
  7. the right to make decisions regarding the child’s education;
  8. the right to the services and earnings of the child; and
  9. the right to act as an agent of the child in relation to the child’s estate.

If the parents are appointed joint managing conservators, then the court will decide which of these rights are to be exercised independently by either parent, jointly by both parents, or exclusively by one parent.

Rights and Duties of A Parent Appointed Possessory Conservator

If one parent is appointed sole managing conservator, the other parent is presumed to be a possessory conservator. This means that even though the other parent does not have rights to make decisions concerning those items listed in the previous section, the other parent does have a right to possession and access of the children.

When the parent appointed possessory conservator has possession of the children, that parent has the following rights and duties:

  1. the duty of care, control, protection, and reasonable discipline of the children;
  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.

Also remember that these rights and duties are in addition to those rights and duties a parent has at all times.

If you would like to schedule a free consultation to discuss your divorce case, then please send me an e-mail or send a request through my contact page.

Bryan Willis

Bryan Willis is a divorce lawyer in Tyler, Texas who also represents clients in probate matters.You should not rely on any content on this website as legal advice.
Bryan Willis
Understanding Your Rights and Duties as a Parent During Divorce

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