Child custody in Texas is known as conservatorship. The person who is awarded custody is referred to as the conservator. A court order must be issued to establish legal custody. Otherwise, the judge has no power to enforce any custody matters.
Texas has three types of conservators. Two parents who share decision-making about the child are joint managing conservators. The child may not necessarily share their time equally with these parents. A possession order will specify the time each parent has.
The child will live with the custodial parent. The other parent is referred to as the non-custodial parent. Sometimes, a parent may not have the sole right to determine where the child will live but there may be geographical restrictions, such as a county or school attendance zone. If a parent has a history of violence against the other parent, the court will not award joint custody.
A court may award custody to only one parent, or a non-parent, referred to as a sole managing conservator. They have the sole right to make decisions about the child. This custody is awarded if the other parent has a history of violence against the custodial parent, has engaged in child abuse or neglect, has a history of drug or alcohol abuse or has been absent from the child's life.
If a sole managing conservator is named, the other parent is usually named as a possessory conservator. They have parental rights but usually little power to make decisions about the child.
Custody is usually awarded as part of a divorce case, paternity case, suit affecting the parent-child relationship or a violence protective order case. A parent may file for modification to seek a change of an existing custody or visitation order.
An attorney can help a parent seek a fair and just custody order and help protect the best interests of the child. Legal assistance may be important if custody is being contested, the other parent has legal representation, the child has a disability, the identity of the child's father is unclear or if there are concerns over the child's safety.