Parenting is difficult. Co-parenting with your ex? Challenging is an understatement. We cannot change that parenting is tough, but a good Texas family law attorney can help make co-parenting more manageable.
Under Texas law, several issues are handled in the Suit Affecting the Parent-Child Relationship (“SAPCR”) or the modification of a Suit Affecting the Parent-Child Relationship. A SAPCR is also automatically part of any divorce when there are children of the marriage. A SAPCR is where the important decisions such as conservatorship, possession and access, child support, and medical support are handled. Each of these is an important part of a SAPCR that you need to understand.
What is conservatorship?
In Texas, conservatorship has nothing to do with freeing Brittney. Texas law uses the word conservatorship in place of custody to define the relationships of the parties under court order. A party with custody ordered by the court is referred to as a conservator. Absent court order, each party has equal rights to their children. A court order is necessary not only to lay out support obligations but to define the roles each parent will have. In the event a parent refuses to return a child, you must have a court order to enforce the return of your child.
There are three types of conservators recognized by Texas family law courts, those being the following:
- Joint Managing Conservator
- Sole Managing Conservator
- Possessory Conservator
A Joint Managing Conservatorship is the default option in most custody cases in Texas. In most joint conservatorship orders, one party will be named the primary joint managing conservator, or custodial parent, and will be granted the exclusive right to determine the primary residence of the child as well as the exclusive right to receive and give receipt for periodic payments for the support of the children and to hold or disburse these funds for the benefit of the children. Often times the parent conservator with the exclusive right to decide where the child lives will be obligated to stay within a certain geographic. The other parent in a joint managing conservatorship order is referred to as the non-primary managing conservator or the non-custodial parent. When parents are appointed as joint managing conservators, they are expected to equally share in making most of the important decisions for the children, including the following:
- The right to consent to medical, dental, and surgical treatment involving invasive procedures;
- The right to consent to psychiatric and psychological treatment;
- The right to represent the child in legal action and to make other
- The right to make decisions of substantial legal significance concerning the child;
- The right to consent to marriage and to enlistment in the armed forces of the United States;
- The right to make decisions concerning the child’s education provided that neither party shall have the right to enroll the child in public school without the other party’s signed written consent;
- The right to the services and earnings of the child, except as provided by Section 264.0111 of the Texas Family Code; and
- Except when a guardian of the child’s estate or a guardian or attorney ad litem has been appointed for the child, the right to act as an agent of the child in relation to the child’s estate if the child’s action is required by a state, the United States, or a foreign government.
Depending on the order issued by the court, the rights granted to joint managing conservators may be rights that are exercised independently or by joint agreement between the conservators. It is also common for the primary joint managing conservator to be given the exclusive right to make educational decisions for the children the subject of the order to prevent any dispute regarding where the child is enrolled in school. In some joint conservatorship orders, the order will not grant anyone parent the exclusive right to decide where the child lives but will require the child’s residence to be limited to a certain geographic area, such as a specific county or school district.
Parent joint managing conservators have several rights and duties under a SACPR order, including the right and obligation at all times:
- The right to receive information from any other conservator of the child concerning the health, education, and welfare of the child;
- The right to confer with the other conservator to the extent possible before making a decision concerning the health, education, and welfare of the child;
- The right of access to medical, dental, psychological, and educational records of the child;
- The right to consult with a physician, dentist, or psychologist of the child;
- The right to consult with school officials concerning the child’s welfare and educational status, including school activities;
- The right to attend school activities;
- The right to be designated on the child’s records as a person to be notified in case of an emergency;
- The right to consent to medical, dental, and surgical treatment during an emergency involving an immediate danger to the health and safety of the child;
- The right to manage the estate of the child to the extent the estate has been created by the parent or the parent’s family;
- The duty to inform the other conservator of the child in a timely manner of significant information concerning the health, education, and welfare of the child;
- The duty to inform the other conservator of the child if the conservator resides with for at least thirty days, marries, or intends to marry a person who the conservator knows is registered as a sex offender under chapter 62 of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure or is currently charged with an offense for which on conviction the person would be required to register under that chapter;
- The duty to inform the other conservator of the child if the conservator establishes a residence with a person who the conservator knows is the subject of a final protective order sought by an individual other than the conservator that is in effect on the date the residence with the person is established.
- The duty is to inform the other conservator of the child if the conservator is the subject of a final protective order issued after the date of the order establishing conservatorship.
In instances where the best interest of the child would not be best served by joint managing conservatorship, the court may award one party sole managing conservatorship and the other party possessory conservatorship. The Sole Managing Conservator generally has the exclusive right to make most decisions about the child. The Possessory Conservator still has the rights of a parent but will not have the final say on most decisions.
What does possession and access mean?
Under Texas law, the possession and access terms within the Order on SAPCR govern each party’s visitation rights with the children. Being named joint managing conservators does not mean that both parents, or any non-parent conservator, will have equal periods of time with the children. The periods of time spent with each child is dependent on the possession and access provisions with the SACPR Order. Texas has what is referred to as the standard possession order, which usually includes vitiation on the first, third, and fifth weekends of the month, as well as a holiday schedule.
During periods of possession, conservators have the following rights and duties:
- The duty of care, control, protection, and reasonable discipline of the child;
- The duty to support the child, including providing the child with clothing, food, shelter, and medical and dental care not involving an invasive procedure;
- The right to consent for the child to medical and dental care not involving an invasive procedure; and
- The right to direct the moral and religious training of the child.