How is child custody determined in Texas?

On behalf of The Rachel Firm posted in Child Custody on Thursday, August 21, 2014.

How is child custody determined in Texas?

For Texas parents going through divorce, child custody is often the most emotional and stressful issue they must deal with. If the parents can reach an agreement as to custody, it is only necessary to get the agreement in writing for the court’s approval. If the parents are unable to agree, the court will decide custody. Texas courts will always look to the child’s best interest in making a custody determination.

Texas courts use the term “conservatorship” to refer to custody. A person who has custody of a child is known as a “conservator.” Conservatorship includes the right to make important decisions about the child’s upbringing, including medical, educational and religious decisions.

Courts in Texas favor both parents being granted conservatorship. This is known as a joint-managing conservatorship. In a JMC, both parents share the rights and responsibilities of parenting. It is possible, however, that in a JMC only one parent will have the right to make important decisions.

A sole managing conservatorship, in which only one parent gets the right to make important parenting decisions, can be granted in cases where the child’s best interest requires it. An SMC may be granted, for instance, if the other parent has committed domestic violence, has a serious drug or alcohol problem or has been absent from the life of the child.

Even if the court orders a JMC it does not mean both parents have equal physical custody and visitation rights. In Texas, courts use the terms possession and access to refer to custody and visitation. The visitation schedule is called a Standard Possession Order. The parents can agree on an SPO, or the court will order one if the parents cannot agree.

This post is only intended to provide general information, not specific legal advice. A parent with specific questions about child custody issues may want to consult a local family law attorney. They could help them address any family law issues or concerns they have regarding any current child custody agreements.

Source:, “Child Custody in Texas,” accessed Aug. 17, 2014