Under Texas law, parents may be named sole managing conservator, joint managing conservator, or possessory conservator. Each title confers different legal rights and duties upon each parent. A sole managing conservator has the exclusive right to make important child-rearing decisions and to determine the primary residence of the child. In addition to the exclusive rights, a sole managing conservator frequently is not subject to a geographic restriction which often is of heightened importance to the conservator. The exclusive rights and duties granted to a sole managing conservator are listed below.
The Rights of a Sole Managing Conservator in Texas
According to the Texas Family Code, a sole managing conservator has the exclusive right to:
- Designate the primary residence of the child
- Consent to medical, dental, and invasive surgical procedures
- Consent to psychological and psychiatric care
- Make educational decisions for the child
- Apply for, renew, or maintain possession of their child’s passport
- Represent the child in legal action
- Consent to marriage or enlistment in the military
- Receive child support
How do I Get Sole Managing Conservatorship in Texas
In Texas, it is difficult to “get” sole managing conservatorship. It is important to remember that you are likely to be responsible for sharing decision-making rights for your child with their other parent unless dangerous circumstances are at play with the other parent. Soon-to-be ex-spouses can agree for one spouse to be sole managing conservator, and in that sense, you may be able to obtain a sole managing conservatorship. However, unless there are circumstances like domestic violence, neglect, physical abuse (criminal activity), drug/alcohol abuse or other actions that show extremely poor decision making concerning a child’s wellbeing, a court is unlikely to disregard the joint managing conservator presumption. However, if you have these types of facts, you should take whatever steps necessary to safeguard your child from these dangers. In that situation, it is imperative that you can prove the dangerous and harmful actions of the other parent, otherwise such a strategy can blow up in your face with a court determining you are making unfounded allegations in an attempt to gain an advantage in child custody litigation.
Reasons why a Texas Court May Order a Sole Managing Conservatorship
There are multiple factors a court may consider before ruling on conservatorship. Some compelling reasons for a sole managing conservatorship include:
- One parent’s history as primary caregiver
- Neglect or abuse
- Stability of the home
- Drug/alcohol abuse by one parent
- Domestic Violence
- Geographic proximity to the child’s current locale
- History of criminal activity
- The child’s wishes
- Emotional and physical needs of the child
Does Sole Managing Conservatorship Mean Sole Physical Custody?
No. Sole managing conservatorship encompasses the exclusive rights and duties to make child-rearing decisions. It does not mean that your ex does not have possession and access of the child. Depending on the particular circumstances of your case, the other parent may have possession and access in accordance with the Standard Possession Order. Or, if there are “bad facts” as discussed above which gave rise to the awarding of sole managing conservatorship, the possessory conservator parent may only have supervised possession and access of the child. Such situations also frequently involve a “step-up” order wherein the possessory conservator’s possession and access increases over time based on the conservator meeting certain benchmarks. So, only in the most egregious of cases will a parent not be given some physical custody of the child.
If you are sole managing conservator, you have the right to make many important decisions for your children regarding education, medical care, and mental health care, among others. This also includes the right to determine the location of your child’s primary domicile, without being subject to a geographic restriction. However, the possessory conservator, will have some rights and duties as well. They will not share your same ability to make child-rearing decisions, but they will retain some sort of “custody” arrangement.
If you have questions about conservatorship or think that it is in your children’s best interest that you be named sole managing conservator, reach out to one of the experienced family lawyers at Scroggins Law Group, PLLC.