Conservatorship involves several rights and duties of parents, including decisions about schooling; medical, dental treatment, psychiatric care and who determines where the children live. If one parent is named sole managing conservator, she makes all the major decisions. Joint managing conservatorship is presumed to be in the children’s best interest by Texas statute. With joint managing conservators, rights and duties may be independent, shared or the exclusive right of one parent. Shared custody means the parents share parental rights and duties and the children have two homes. Split custody means there are at least two children and each parent has full custody of at least one child.
2. Possession and Access.
Possession and access refer to when each parent has actual physical possession of the children. Texas has two possession and access schedules: standard and extended. Standard possession means the non-custodial parent has access to the children for two hours on Thursday from 6 to 8 p.m., the first, third and fifth week-ends of each month beginning and ending at 6 p.m., shared time during holidays and one month during the summer. Extended possession means the children may come straight from school on Thursday and stay overnight with the non-custodial parent who returns them to school Friday morning. In the case of children under three, the non-custodial parent should have frequent and regular contact with his infant. Visits should last about two hours (but not overnight), and on a regular basis.
3. Factor Involved in Determining Child Custody and Possession.
Texas courts consider many factors when making custody and possession determinations. These include the age, developmental status and circumstances of the child, their needs and the child’s best interest. Also, the circumstances of both parents and other relevant factors are considered, including the preference of children over twelve.
4. Best Interest of the Child.
The Texas Family Code states that the best interest of the child shall always be the primary consideration of the court in determining the issue of custody and possession. Factors Texas courts use to determine best interest of the child include the type of home each parent maintains, the distance between the two homes, each parent’s ability to care for their children, whether the parents can cooperate in raising their children, each parent’s financial situation and the child’s preference if over twelve. Courts look with disfavor on any parent with a history of family violence, criminal behavior or drug abuse.
5. Rights and Duties of Joint Conservators.
Generally, joint custody of a child includes the shared right to receive information about the health, education and welfare of the child; access to medical, dental and psychological records of the child; the right to talk with a physician, dentist or psychologist about the child; the right to talk to school officials about the child; to consent to noninvasive medical, dental, and psychiatric procedures; the right to attend school activities; the right to make decisions about education; the right to guide the child in religious values and the right to authorize surgical treatment during an emergency involving an immediate danger to the child. One joint conservator will have the right to determine the residence of the child and the right to receive child support. If one parent is granted sole managing conservatorship of the child, she makes all major decisions.
6. Why Courts Award Sold Managing Conservatorship.
There are several reasons courts may award sole managing conservatorship to one parent. If one parent has a history of family violence or neglect; a history of drug abuse, alcohol abuse or criminal activity; the parent has been absent from the child’s life or there is a history of extreme conflict between the parents over educational, medical or religious values, the courts will generally award sole managing conservatorship to the other parent.
7. If Child Support is Not Paid, Can You Refuse Visitation?
No. Child support and visitation are independent rights and duties. The court may take into consideration the status of child support payments and how often visitation is actually being exercised when setting child support payments, but a judge or a parent cannot refuse to allow visitation solely because a parent is not paying child support.