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The child custody and visitation system in Texas-Part II

As noted in a previous post, Texas family courts assign either sole managing or joint managing conservatorship to parents who have divorced. The law requires that joint managing conservatorship be considered first because it is commonly seen as the custody form that meets the best interests of the child. Courts generally adhere to this principle except when there is specific evidence of domestic violence against a child.

When both parents are appointed as joint managing conservators, they are expected to share full parental duties. The court does, however, fix the geographical location where the child can live and make one parent responsible for providing shelter and a primary residence for the child. This parent becomes the primary joint managing conservator and, essentially, the custodial parent.

The other parent is the possessory noncustodial parent. This parent can have temporary custody of the child during certain periods such as regular weekend visits or arranged vacations by mutual agreement with the custodial parent. Apart from deciding where the child would stay, all other decisions about the child are made by both parents. In these ways, joint managed conservatorships are seen as serving most children's best interests.

The parent who is not the sole managing conservator is the possessory conservator. Texas courts rarely appoint sole possessory conservatorships, primarily because this form of custody is not seen as meeting the best interests of most children. More often it is the chosen option when a court believes there is real danger that a child has been or could be emotionally or physically abused. Possessory conservators have the same duties as any other parent. He or she is entitled to information about the child's education, health and welfare and has the right to access a child's records, the right to approve medical treatment and the right to manage the child's estate.

Source: TexasBar.com, "Custody/Conservatorship," April 2014

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