What You Need To Know About Conservatorship in Texas
Before tackling cases dealing with divorce in Texas, we always make it a point to know what the clients want out of the divorce. In most cases, clients want full child custody in Texas. Unfortunately, full custody does not exist in Texas, at least legally. In fact, the term “custody” does not even exist in the Texas Family Code. The closest thing to “custody” in the Texas is conservatorship. What does conservatorship in Texas really mean?
Texas Conservatorship Designations
There are primarily two types of conservatorships that exist in Texas. The first of which is managing conservatorship, which involves rights, duties, and decision making powers. Managing conservatorship can be legally given to both parents of a child if they are not married – no longer married or have never been married. When someone is a managing conservator it means that he or she is basically the legal guardian of the child, protecting the child and managing finances and other things with the child’s best interest in mind. Usually, both parents will become “joint managing conservators” of their children after the divorce and therefore share in those rights, duties, and decisions similarly to how parents who are still together would. There are also instances where one parent is chosen as sole managing conservator. This can happen if there are extreme circumstances involving the other parent, or that the court feels that the best interest of the child would be harmed if one of the parents had some of the rights associated with a managing conservator.
Conservatorship in Texas: A Title for Rights and Duties
When it comes to joint managing conservatorship, the rights and duties of the parents towards the child are divided fairly by the court. Most often, the battles in court revolve around where the primary residence of the child will be. If the mother’s home will be chosen as the child’s primary residence, it will be where the child will spend most of his or her time. This is one conservatorship right that cannot be shared easily, as this will determine where the child will attend school and spend most of his or her childhood. There are some arrangements that can be made where this is not an exclusive right, but it often requires very specific circumstances. With most any custody order, agreements and arrangements can be made between the two parents without having to get approval from the court, but the court issues orders for what should occur in the event that the parents cannot reach an agreement.
Usually, issues regarding health and education are equally shared by both parents, unless alternative agreements have been made. In cases where one parent doubts the other’s capacity to carry out duties and rights properly, that parent can fight in court to restrict the other parent in that area of conservatorship.
If one parent is often unavailable to make decisions and fulfill duties, they can set an agreement to give the other parent exclusive rights too.
What Conservatorship in Texas Really Means
The main issue that many parents are constantly battling about is the division of time between the patents. Since one parent will have the right to live with the child in the child’s primary residence, that parent will be with the child more than 50% of the year. The other conservator will obviously have lesser time with the child, at less than 50%. Often, the parent in the primary residence will spend at least 57% of the year with the child and the other parent will have only 43%.
The breakdown of the time that will be spent with each parent is stated in the Standard Possession Order. It provides the details of the weekly and daily visitation schedule as well as summer and holiday vacation schedule. It is possible for someone to have rights to have time with the child, but not to make decisions. In Texas, this is what is known as a possessory conservatorship.
Conservatorship in Texas and Child Support
In a Texas divorce, when the issue of conservatorship comes up, parents get concerned about child support payments. The court will usually assign one parent to pay child support while the other parent will be the designated one to receive it. The parents can have an agreement if they mutually believe that child support is unnecessary, though it is important to note that it is not possible to permanently waive child support, and the parent who is designated with the right to determine the primary residence can seek it at any point in time in the future. The breakdown of the percentage of a parent’s income that should go to child support is included in the Texas Family Code, starting at 20% of the non-custodial parent’s net income and increasing by 5 percent for each additional child. A maximum of 40% of the parent’s net income can be taken as child support.
If the child or one of the child has special needs, the court can order the parent to pay more than the 40% limit. Usually, child support must be given monthly until the child graduates from high school but in the case of a child with special needs, the duty to pay child support can extend beyond this period.
Dealing with Texas custody or conservatorship in Texas can be complicated and exhausting. You will need to secure a Texas family law attorney’s guidance to get you through the worst of it and to help you achieve the ideal result from your court battles.
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