Texas courts apply a legal presumption that both parents should be appointed as joint managing conservators. Conservatorship is what most people would think of as child custody and their custodial rights as parents. In Texas, when two parents get divorced the court determines their parental rights by appointing one or both parents as joint managing conservators. Note that conservatorship appointments also take place among non-married parents in a suit affecting the parent-child relationship.
The law presumes that both parents should be appointed as joint managing conservators with equal parenting rights. However, the judge can make orders about specific rights and duties. The judge may also make orders regarding restricted parenting time which is called possession and access, in Texas.
In cases involving family violence, domestic violence and other factors that could affect the best interests of a child, the judge can appoint one parent as the sole managing conservator, having certain exclusive rights and responsibilities while the other parent gets periods of possession with the child. During those periods of possession, that non-primary parent still has certain rights and duties during their possession, unless otherwise restricted by the judge.
Listen to Richard T. Sutherland’s Texas Child Custody and Conservatorship podcast to learn about the issues involved in conservatorship and the rights and duties of parents in Texas.
The Standard Rights and Duties of a Parent Appointed as a Conservator of a Child
Parents appointed as joint managing conservators possess their rights and responsibilities as parents at all times, not only when the child is physical with them, in their possession. These rights are about access to and information sharing as well as rights about decision making. Information and decisions about a child and the child’s best interests involve health, education, general welfare, medical, dental, and psychological needs and development.
However, the rights of the parent who is not appointed as a conservator, the parent who only has periods of possession, may only assert those rights when the child is present with that parent. Those rights are duties are about the care, control, protection and reasonable discipline of the child. In addition, that parent has a duty to support the child and provide clothing, food, shelter, medical, and dental care when during possession and access. They also have rights to consent for basic medical and dental care and to direct the moral and religious training of the child, when in their possession.
Both Parents Exercising Rights and Responsibilities as Joint Managing Conservators
After a divorce or suit affecting a parent-child relationship, parents must work together as co-parents, and they should be focused on the best interests of each child. Unless limited by court order, a parent appointed as a conservator of a child at all times have the named parental rights and responsibilities. Being a good co-parent means working well with the other parent by sharing information and conferring with the other on decisions affecting the child.
You might like this HuffPost article, 10 Real-Life Tips for Successful Co-Parenting.
A Child’s Health, Education, and Welfare
A parent appointed as a conservator of a child has the right to receive information from the other conservator of the child concerning the health, education, and welfare of the child. It can lead to problems when one conservator withholds information about health, education, and the child’s welfare. When the other parent has a right to information, sharing that information is good for the child. If there is a problem, your attorney can ask the court to intervene.
A Child’s Medical, Dental, Psychological, and Educational Records
A parent appointed as a conservator of a child has the right to confer with the other parent before making a decision concerning the health, education, and welfare of the child. Discuss these decisions with the other conservator parent. Both conservators should work together to avoid conflict.
Consulting with the Child’s Physician, Dentist, or Psychologist
A parent appointed as a conservator of a child has the right to access medical, dental, psychological, and educational records for the child. When access to records is denied or withheld, the conservator parent cannot exercise their parental rights and responsibilities.
Consulting with School Officials about Education, Welfare, and School Activities
A parent appointed as a conservator of a child has the right to consult with the officials with information about the child’s education, welfare, and school activities. A conservator parent has the right to know how their child is doing at school and in what activities they participate, such as extramural sports.
Know what your child is up to at school. Consider tips in this article, 4 Ways to Interact with Your Kids After School.
Attending School Activities
A parent appointed as a conservator of a child has a right to attend school activities such as parent-teacher conferences, school plays, sporting events, and other events. If one conservator stands in the way of the other, preventing them from attending school activities, there can be conflict leading the parties back to court.
Being the Child’s Emergency Contact to be Notified
A parent appointed as a conservator of a child has the right to designated on the school records as the person who has a right to be notified in the case of an emergency. It should be possible for both conservators to be designated as emergency contacts. Parents have the right to know if their child is involved in an emergency.
Consenting to Medical, Dental, and Surgical Treatment in Emergencies
A parent appointed as a conservator of a child has a right to consent to healthcare professionals to engage in medical, dental, and surgical treatments when there is an emergency causing an immediate danger to the health and safety of the child.
Managing a Child’s Estate Created by the Parent or Parent’s Family
A parent appointed as a conservator of a child has the right to manage a child’s estate, for the reasonable needs of the child, as set forth in any agreements such as a trust. The conservator parent can make an appropriate management decision in the child’s best interests.
The Standard Rights and Duties of the Non-Primary Parent During Periods of Possession
The conservator with periods of possession and access with the child can exercise certain rights and meet duties to the child. These rights and duties apply during the times that the non-primary parent is with the child during the set periods of possession and access. First, they have the duty of care, control, protection, and reasonable discipline of the child. While with the child they also have the duty to support the child with clothing, food, shelter, medical, and dental care. In providing for the child’s needs and best interests, the conservator parent during periods of possession has the right to consent for medical and dental care not involving serious invasive procedures. As well that parent can direct the child’s moral and religious training.
What Happens When Conservator Parents Exceed or Interfere with the Rights and Responsibilities of Joint Managing Conservators?
While co-parenting and exercising parental rights and duties, even the best efforts of good joint managing conservators can lead to enforcements and suits for modifications of the Court’s order regarding conservatorship, and possession and access. For example, when one party remarries there can be new conflict about decisions involving the child. Decisions about schooling, vaccinations, religious choices, and more, can lead to a trip back to court.
An experienced Texas divorce lawyer can help parents in conflict. Resolving problems with parental rights and duties is possible outside of court. Mediation is one alternative dispute resolution option other than filing an enforcement or modification suit. When mediation doesn’t work, and when the best interests of the child are at issue and in jeopardy, you need a tough and aggressive lawyer to negotiate and litigate your enforcement or modification suit.
Richard T. Sutherland is a Wichita County Divorce Lawyer for Children’s Issues and the Rights and Responsibilities of Joint Managing Conservators (940) 691-2100.
Wichita Falls Family Law Attorney Richard T. Sutherland represents people and families in Wichita County, Archer County, Baylor County, Clay County, Foard County, Hardeman County, Jack County, Montague County, Wise County, Young County and Wilbarger Counties in North Texas and has accepted cases in other areas West, North-Central and in South Texas. Contact us today for a consultation.
Richard T. Sutherland can advise and represent parents with issues regarding the rights and responsibilities of joint managing conservators including new divorces, suits affecting the parent-child relationships among non-married parents, as well as the enforcement and modification suits.