Child custody is very often a source of contention during a separation or divorce. Disagreement as to child custody issues make unresolved property issues even more difficult. Most people think of “child custody” as meaning the right to possession of a child. However, in Texas possession of a child is a very fluid and variable thing. Even if a child lives with one parent, the child will usually spend a lot of time in the possesion of the other parent.
Texas law prefers to use the term conservatorship in defining the rights and duties of parents with regard to their children. In most cases, the court will order “joint managing conservatorship” for the benefit of the child. Generally this allows both parents to make decisions about the upbringing of the child while he is in the possession of that parent. In some cases a court will designate one parent as a “sole managing conservatorship” if there are serious factors involved which affect the child’s well-being.
ABOUT JOINT CONSERVATORSHIP
Joint conservatorship means each parent has particular duties and rights concerning their children. It is not the same as saying each parent has joint custody. The court may specify the specific rights and duties that are to be exercised by each parent independently, by the joint agreement of the parents or exclusively by one parent. In almost all cases, one parent will have the exclusive right to establish the residence of the children. The other parent will almost always have the right to “visitation” or possesion during specific time periods.
Obviously, one big concern of the parent who does not have the right to designate the children’s residence will be where the children will be living. Without some geographic restriction, the parent who determines residence could move half a world away, effectively depriving the other parent of visitation. Most decrees provide for this restriction, and much litigation involves modification of this restriction, one way or the other.
It is always beneficial to children when parents can reach agreements through effective communication rather than engaging in an expensive and bitter legal battle. It can never be predicted what the court will do. A knowledgeable divorce attorney can help the parties work out an agreement without court intervention.