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What is Sole Managing Conservatorship?

Portrait of happy family in front  house

Most people have heard the terms “sole custody” and “joint custody,” understanding that these terms refer to possible child custody arrangements. Different states use different legal terms when referring to these arrangements. In Texas, parents in a divorce or custody dispute may be named “joint managing conservators” or the “sole managing conservator.” These labels confer certain legal rights and obligations on parents. Read on for an explanation of sole managing conservatorship in Texas. If you are dealing with custody issues or facing the prospect of divorce in Harris County, call a knowledgeable Houston child custody and divorce lawyer for advice and representation.

The Legal Power of a Sole Managing Conservatorship

Being named sole managing conservator over a child is essentially what people imagine when they think of “winning sole custody.” The sole managing conservator has the exclusive rights to make important decisions about the child’s upbringing. That decision-making power includes, but is not limited to:

  • Decisions about the child’s education
  • Decisions about the child’s medical care
  • Permitting the child to marry before age 18
  • Decisions about whether the child will live

If one party is named sole managing conservator, the other party will likely be named “possessory conservator.” A possessory conservator has parental rights, including rights to visitation and to make day-to-day decisions concerning the child’s upbringing while they are in possession of the child. The sole managing conservator, however, will have the final word on the most significant decisions.

How to Become Sole Managing Conservator

Texas courts prefer to name both parents as joint managing conservators. There is a rebuttable presumption, in fact, that joint managing conservatorship is in the best interests of the child. A joint managing conservatorship is like joint custody in other states–it means that the parents will share the legal right to make important decisions about the child’s upbringing, such as the child’s education and medical decisions.

Courts might be persuaded to ignore the presumption and grant sole managing conservatorship to one parent under appropriate circumstances. The court will always consider the best interests of the child first and foremost when making custody decisions. Factors affecting the best interests of the child include:

  • The child’s wishes
  • The emotional and physical needs of the child, including whether the child has special needs
  • Any danger to the child now or in the future at either home
  • The parenting capabilities of each parent
  • The stability of each home environment
  • Any evidence of domestic violence, including reports of child abuse
  • Each parent’s plan for the child

If one parent can demonstrate, for example, that their former spouse has a history of abuse, or that their home is frequented by criminal associates, then the court may decide to award sole managing conservatorship to the safer, non-abusive parent. Sole managing conservatorship still allows for visitation rights and other parenting time arrangements.

If you’re facing family law issues including child custody, alimony, property division, child support, or any other family law matter in Texas, get effective help protecting your rights by contacting the trusted and talented Houston family law attorney Maria S. Lowry at 713-850-8859.

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