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What does child conservatorship mean in a Texas divorce?

On Behalf of | Dec 17, 2023 | Child Custody

If the new year is going to bring divorce, as a parent, you’re likely most concerned with what that’s going to mean for your child and your relationship with them. If you and your spouse are going to be working out some type of shared parenting arrangement, it’s important to understand the lingo.

Texas law has some terms you might not be familiar with, so it’s crucial to know what they mean. For example, what is often referred to as legal custody of a child (decision-making responsibilities) is called “conservatorship” in Texas law. Parents are typically a child’s managing conservators. What’s widely known as physical custody or parenting time is called “possession and access.” 

While you might still use the more familiar terms in conversation, you’ll see these other terms on your legal documents, so it’s important to understand them. Let’s look briefly at the different types of managing conservators.

Joint and sole managing conservatorships

When parents agree to both remain responsible for important decisions involving their child (like education, medical care and religious upbringing), they have what’s called joint managing conservatorship (JMC) of that child. If the decision-making responsibility remains in one parent’s hands, it’s called a sole managing conservatorship (SMC).

Typically, when parents share “possession and access” of their child, it’s only practical that they have a JMC arrangement. If one parent is the child’s primary or sole caregiver, they would likely have SMC.

There are other conservator options as well, but these are two most common. Each situation is unique, but typically it’s best when parents can negotiate the conservatorship and possession and access agreements, with the help of their legal representatives. If they can’t, they’ll need to make their cases to a judge who will have the final say. What’s important is that everyone keeps the focus on what’s best for the child involved.