More often than not when it comes to a family suit involving children, who has primary custody of them is the most contested and important issue to my clients. Which makes sense as their property can be replaced but their children cannot. Sometimes parents can work together well after divorce and can take care of their children in different yet harmonious ways. But sometimes a parent in the relationship is unfit to make serious decisions and needs to have their role in the children’s lives limited.

In Texas what many refer to as custody is known as conservatorship. When children are involved in a family suit each parent is considered a conservator, of which there are two types: the managing conservator and the possessory conservator. Managing conservators are further broken down into two sub types: joint managing conservators and sole managing conservators.

When a Court sees that parents can work together, and neither are a detriment to the children they are named joint managing conservators. They share the rights and duties of raising a child and must co-parent to see it done well. Being a joint managing conservator does not by itself mean you will have no exclusive rights. For example, a joint managing conservator can be designated the primary parent with the exclusive right to designate the residence of the child, and in turn have the exclusive right to receive child support. However, most of the time when it comes to things such as medical treatment and education the parents must confer and sometimes agree with one another before making a decision.

When a client comes in saying they want sole custody, they want to be the sole managing conservator. This is usually granted when a Court finds that the other parent for one reason or another is unfit to have control over the child. The sole managing conservator is the parent with the exclusive right to make important decisions in the child’s life. Decisions such as where the children will go to school and what kind of medical treatment they will receive can often be made without approval of the possessory conservator. A sole managing conservator will also be the parent who the child primarily lives with and thus will be the parent with the right to receive child support.

The possessory conservator is the parent who has the right to have possession of the children under the conditions specified in the Court’s order. So, if one parent is named sole managing conservator and the other parent is the possessory conservator with one weekend a month for visitation; then the possessory parent does not have those exclusive rights concerning the children, but does have the right to possess the children for that designated weekend.