Creating Sustainable Solutions

That Fit Your Life

Legal terms that all divorcing Texas parents should understand

On Behalf of | Apr 12, 2024 | Child custody

If you’re a Texas parent who believes divorce is inevitable in the near future, or who has perhaps started preparing for it, you’re probably thinking about what kind of custody and parenting time agreements you want to seek. You may be surprised to see some unfamiliar terms when you’re reading up on Texas family law. Texas uses some unique language when it comes to parental rights and responsibilities. It’s crucial to know and understand them as you enter into negotiations with your spouse.

What is widely known as physical custody in other states is called “possession and access” under Texas law. Meanwhile, what’s generally referred to as legal custody is called “decision-making responsibilities.” Both of these terms are actually better descriptions of what these two things are than “custody.” By contrast, the care of a child is called “conservatorship” rather than custody. Which type of conservatorship a child has depends on how possession and access and decision-making responsibilities are shared (or not shared) by parents.

Common types of conservatorships

When parents share decision-making for their child in important matters like medical care, education and religion, it’s called a joint managing conservatorship (JMC). This is typically the best arrangement when co-parents share possession and access of their child.

If only one parent has the legal right to make these decisions, it’s a sole managing conservatorship (SMC). This is less common, and it’s used primarily if one parent has little or no involvement in a child’s life. SMC is most common when only one parent has possession and access.

In some cases, a parent may be granted shared possession and access to their child, but not be allowed decision-making rights. When this is the case, they’re known as a possessory conservator.

It’s typically wise to have possession and access and decision-making rights decided before developing, or at least finalizing, a parenting plan. It can all feel overwhelming – especially when it can feel like your and your child’s relationship is what’s at stake. Having experienced legal guidance can make a big difference in seeking and obtaining the arrangement that you believe is best for your child.