On March 12, 2013, the Texas jury in the Deion and Pilar Sanders divorce ruled that Deion Sanders would have Sole Managing Conservatorship of the couple’s two boys and that Deion and Pilar would be joint managing conservators of the couple’s daughter with Deion determining the daughter’s primary residence.  What does this mean and how does this ruling impact each parent’s ability to raise their children?

I always tell my clients to think of conservatorship as being two pronged: The first prong has to do with rights and duties to a child and the second prong deals with possession schedules – who is going to see the child when.  Today I am only dissecting the first prong of conservatorship as it relates to parents rights and duties to their children.

In Texas, there is a presumption under the law that it is in a child’s best interest for two parents to be named Joint Managing Conservators.  Joint Managing Conservators means that two parents have equal decision making in a child’s life from medical, to psychological, to educational decisions as well as the ability to manage a child’s property, if there is property to manage.  When you hear that a parent is the “primary conservator” in a joint managing conservatorship, it deals with one thing and one thing only; the exclusive right to designate the child’s primary residence. 

The jury in the Sanders divorce trial ruled that Deion and Pilar are joint managing conservators of their daughter with Deion designating the daughter’s primary residence.  Deion is considered the “primary conservator” of their daughter in that he will determine where she will live primarily.  Texas law presumes that it is in a child’s best interest that a child’s primary residence be restricted to a certain geographic area so that each parent will have continuing contact with the children. 

In order to receive Sole Managing Conservatorship of a child, you must rebut the presumption that a Joint Managing Conservatorship is in the child’s best interest.   It is very difficult to rebut this presumption and you must show some form of child abuse, harm, or neglect or domestic violence in order to be awarded Sole Managing Conservatorship as well as demonstrating that it is in the child’s best interest for one parent to be the Sole Managing Conservator

What differentiates Sole Managing Conservatorship from Joint Managing Conservatorship is that the Sole Managing Conservator has sole decision making ability when it comes to all major decisions in a child’s life from medical, to psychological, to educational decisions as well as the ability to manage a child’s property, if there is property to manage.

Deion Sanders being named the Sole Managing Conservator of the two boys is very significant in that he will be making all major decisions regarding the children’s lives (as discussed above) and will not even be required to have Pilar’s agreement prior to making those decisions.  Deion will still have a duty to inform Pilar of these decisions but he will have sole decision making ability.  In order for the Texas jury to have made this ruling, the jury must have found that it was in the children’s best interest for Deion to have Sole Managing Conservatorship of the boys.

Stay tuned for my next blog where I will discuss possession schedules for parents in Texas and the Judge’s ruling on the Deion and Pilar Sanders’ respective periods of possession of their children.

 

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Photo of Michelle O'Neil Michelle O'Neil

Michelle May O’Neil has 27 years’ experience representing small business owners, professionals, and individuals in litigation related to family law matters such as divorce, child custody, and complex property division. Described by one lawyer as “a lethal combination of sweet-and-salty”, Ms. O’Neil exudes…

Michelle May O’Neil has 27 years’ experience representing small business owners, professionals, and individuals in litigation related to family law matters such as divorce, child custody, and complex property division. Described by one lawyer as “a lethal combination of sweet-and-salty”, Ms. O’Neil exudes genuine compassion for her client’s difficulties, yet she can be relentless when in pursuit of a client’s goals. One judge said of Ms. O’Neil, “She cannot be out-gunned, out-briefed, or out-lawyered!”

Family Law Specialist

Ms. O’Neil became a board-certified family law specialist by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization in 1997 and has maintained her certification since that time. While representing clients in litigation before the trial court is an important part of her practice, Ms. O’Neil also handles appellate matters in the trial court, courts of appeals and Texas Supreme Court. Lawyers frequently consult with Ms. O’Neil on their litigation cases about specialized legal issues requiring particularized attention both at the trial court and appellate levels. This gives her a unique perspective and depth of perception that benefits both her litigation and appellate clients.

Top Lawyers in Texas and America

Ms. O’Neil has been named to the list of Texas SuperLawyers for many years, 2011-2018, a peer-voted honor given to only about 5% of the lawyers in the state of Texas. In 2014-2018, Ms. O’Neil received the special honor of being named by Texas SuperLawyers as one of the Top 50 Women Lawyers in Texas, Top 100 Lawyers in Texas, and Top 100 Lawyers in DFW. She was named one of the Best Lawyers in America for 2016 and received an “A-V” peer review rating by Martindale-Hubbell Legal Directories for the highest quality legal ability and ethical standards.

Author and Speaker

A noted author, Ms. O’Neil released her second book Basics of Texas Divorce Law in November 2010, with a second edition released in 2013, and a third edition expected in 2015.  Her first book, All About Texas Law and Kids, was published in September 2009 by Texas Lawyer Press. In 2012, Ms. O’Neil co-authored the booklets What You Need To Know About Common Law Marriage In Texas and Social Study Evaluations.  The State Bar of Texas and other providers of continuing education for attorneys frequently enlist Ms. O’Neil to provide instruction to attorneys on topics of her expertise in the family law arena.