Many fathers consign themselves to a life of back-seat parenting of their children because they mistakenly believe the Texas family courts thumb the scale in favor of the mother. But that is not necessarily true.
In earlier years, here in Texas — as in most other states in America — there often was a judicial presumption that, lacking any blatant evidence to the contrary, children were better off in the custody of their mothers after a divorce.
What dads seeking custody should know
Texas handles custody matters a bit differently than other states. Instead of custody, the term used is “conservatorship,” with the parents being the children’s “custodians.” When the Texas family law courts name a custodian of the children, that individual is the children’s “conservator.”
Courts may sign off on conservatorships
If the two parents can reach accord on their own, the courts may sign the conservatorship into law. But that is unlikely unless the parents put the children’s best interests first when drawing up the conservatorship.
This is the best-case scenario when parents want to ensure that they retain control over the conservatorship process.
Types of conservatorships
Texas recognizes two kinds of conservatorships, which are:
- Joint managing conservatorship (JMC)
- Sole managing conservatorship (SMC)
Parents or others with a conservatorship over the kids have the right to:
- Access information about the kids’ education, health and welfare
- Access the children’s educational, dental, psychological and medical records
- Communicate with the kids’ doctors, dentists and other medical providers
- Communicate with teachers, coaches and school officials regarding their children’s progress, activities and welfare
- Give consent for the children to receive surgery as well as other medical and dental care in emergencies
Joint managing conservatorships Texas courts presume that both parents should be named the joint managing conservators (JMC) of their children, unless it can be proven they are unfit or otherwise unable. With a JMC, both parents share duties and rights.
However, a single parent may be awarded exclusive rights to decide some issues when the courts conclude that is in the children’s best interests.
Sole managing conservatorship (SMC)
Sometimes, courts determine that a SMC granting one parent legal decision-making rights is the better choice. The SMC may grant the parent rights like:
- Granting consent for all medical treatment
- Make the child’s educational decisions
- Right to attend school functions
- Determining where the child will live
- Designating that parent as the child’s emergency contact
- Receive child support from the other parent
Seeking a conservatorship over your children can be a complex undertaking. Taking advantage of guidance from a Texas family law attorney is always a good idea in these situations.