Parents in Texas who are expecting to go to court over who will get custody may find some of the legal terms confusing. According to FindLaw, instead of the word "custody," Texas uses the word, "conservatorship." Thus, the parents are conservators rather than custodial and noncustodial parents.
Joint managing conservatorship and sole managing conservatorship are the two basic forms of custody, and they define the rights and responsibilities of each parent.
Sole managing conservatorship
SMC is somewhat extreme, and it is typically granted only under certain conditions. For example, if there is a history of domestic violence or a parent has neglected the child, the other parent is likely to be awarded SMC. An absent parent or one with a history of substance abuse or criminal activity would be unlikely to be granted JMC rights and responsibilities. A parent could also willingly give up the rights and responsibilities he or she would have had with JMC.
A parent with SMC has the right to decide where the child will live, as well as the responsibility to consent to medical, dental, psychiatric and psychological treatment. He or she makes the educational decisions for the child and can attend school activities. The SMC is typically awarded child support.
Joint managing conservatorship
Unless one of the extreme circumstances above apply, parents will probably be joint managing conservators, which means they will share the conservatorship rights and responsibilities. However, this does not mean they share everything equally. The child may spend more time with one parent, and the other parent may pay child support. The judge may apportion the decision-making responsibilities between the parents based on what is deemed best for the child.
The Attorney General of Texas website explains that the judge considers certain criteria in determining what is in the child's best interests. These include the following:
- What the child wants
- The child's current and future physical and emotional needs
- Parenting skills and abilities of each parent
- The ability of each parent to provide a stable home environment
- The parents' plans for their child
- Relationships between the child and each parent
The gender of the parent is not a factor, and many fathers have the greater share of the JMC responsibilities and receive child support. However, only about 10 percent of Texas fathers are custodial parents.