Child Custody is a term that is loosely used by clients, lawyers and judges alike, but what does it really mean? In Texas, the correct term for what most people mean when they say “Child Custody” is “Conservatorship.” The public perception of what goes on in the part of a divorce dealing with the children, known as the Suit Affecting the Parent-Child Relationship, is very different than what actually may occur.
3 Types of Conservatorships
There are three types of conservatorships in Texas Family Law:
- Joint Conservatorship;
- Sole Managing Conservatorship; and,
- Possessory Conservatorship.
For many years, the Texas Family Code and Texas courts presumed that it was “in the best interest of children” for one parent to be named Sole Managing Conservator or for that parent to have “custody,” as that term was more commonly used and understood. In those days, the Possessory Conservator was the parent who had “visitation rights” with the child, typically every other weekend, shared holidays and some summer vacation time. A number of years ago, the Texas Family Code changed that best interest presumption based on a body of scientific studies that determined it was in the best interest of a child that BOTH parents be named Joint Managing Conservators. Now, unless there is an extraordinary circumstance, most parents are named Joint Managing Conservators of their children.
Even within Joint Managing Conservatorship, there are a number of other questions to be decided, including where the child’s primary residence will be (for the purposes of such things as which school the child will attend), how the significant legal, medical, psychological and educational decisions for the child are made, and when the child will spend time with each parent. Parents can work together to decide these issues, either informally, in mediation, in the collaborative process, or if those are not viable options, the parents can have a trial. When the parents cannot decide who will have the right to set the child’s residence (still often called “custody” by many people), this is commonly known as a “custody battle.”
Currently in Texas, even if the case goes to trial, in all likelihood the parents are both going to be named Joint Managing Conservators, and the court will then decide which parent will have the right to determine where the child’s primary residence will be, which parent will make other significant decisions for the child, and when each parent spends time with the child. People commonly think and say that one side “won custody” and the other side “lost custody,” as if one parent is going to continue to be the parent and the other is going to be reduced to limited visitation with the child. Not “winning custody” does not mean that you have lost your children, and “winning custody,” as most people use that term, does not mean that the other parent is out of your life. The greatest negative impact on your children in a custody battle will be from the “fight” in the “custody battle,” not the outcome. Therapists who specialize in dealing with children of divorce regularly deal with the fall-out of custody battles. The greatest negative impact on the parent, economically and emotionally, will be because of the “fight.” Often, the parents are unable to move beyond the trial and the “fight,” both economically and emotionally, for many years.
In some cases, however, a parent has no choice but to go through the battle. When confronted with this situation, and a “custody battle” is the only choice you have to protect your child’s best interest, it is imperative that you hire an experienced attorney that specializes in and has experience in child custody cases.
At the Law Office of David S. Bouschor, II, P.C., we provide advice and guidance to help you make the right decisions concerning child custody matters. We will help you decide on the type of child conservatorship that you believe will be most appropriate in your case, including whether you will seek Sole or Joint managing conservatorship, based on factors such as history of drug abuse, negligence, physical or sexual abuse, family violence, parental absence and the level of parental conflict, then we will advise you on the best way to move forward with your case.
Contact us with questions or for more information at (940) 202-8323.