Child Custody in Texas: What does Custody Mean?

Child Custody Lawyer in Houston, Texas

Understanding the Terminology of Child Custody in Texas

If you are facing a divorce that involves children, it is only natural that you put their welfare and well being first. In fact, in such divorces, the elemental issue of dividing marital property comes second only to child custody arrangements. Many parents experience extreme anxiety over the issue of child custody throughout the divorce process, but understanding the lingo can help. The State of Texas employs its own unique set of terms as they relate to child custody, and these terms are more dry and officious sounding than they are warm and comforting. Once you have a feel for them, however, your anxiety is likely to be alleviated.

Texas and Child Custody Language

When you think about divorce and your children, you are no doubt concerned with what your child custody arrangements will be post-divorce. This is naturally your top priority, and before the issue is settled, the uncertainty is likely to cause consternation. The Texas Family Code does not address “custody” per se but, instead, concerns itself with “conservatorship.” While you are probably familiar with the term custody, conservatorship has an institutional sound that many parents find off-putting. If you can familiarize yourself with the term, however, it will make it that much easier for you to move forward confidently.

For your purposes, custody and conservatorship are interchangeable terms – don’t let the language throw you. You and your spouse are your children’s parents – and not their conservators. Conservatorship is simply a legal term that the State of Texas employs to help delineate who maintains the legal rights and responsibilities of raising the children involved. It is not meant as an indictment of your parenting, and it has no bearing on how you will continue to parent.

Conservatorship in Texas

Many divorcing parents fear the term “joint custody” because they think it means that their children will be shuttled back and forth between both parents’ homes equally and will not have one home base. This is not typically the case, and this fact also applies to conservatorship. In Texas, there are only two distinct kinds of conservatorship, and they include joint managing conservatorship (JMC) and sole managing conservatorship (SMC), which closely correspond to joint custody and sole custody. Joint custody doesn’t necessarily mean sharing parenting time equally between both parents, and neither does joint managing conservatorship necessarily mean sharing parenting time equally between both parents – in fact, it usually doesn’t. While the term joint managing conservatorship may not inspire confidence, likening it to joint custody should improve your level of comfort.

It’s important to understand that – as with sole custody – sole managing conservatorship is rare. In the overwhelming majority of cases, parents share the rights and responsibilities of parenting their children after divorce. Again, this is unlikely to mean that your children will divide their time equally between your two homes – there’s more to consider.

The Custodial and Noncustodial Parent

Within conservatorship, there is the custodial parent and the noncustodial parent. If you are determined to be the custodial parent, your home will be your children’s primary home and your ex will become the noncustodial parent. Your children’s noncustodial parent will have a visitation schedule with the kids and will most likely pay child support. Therefore, if you and your ex ultimately share JMC and you are the custodial parent, you will both share the rights and responsibilities of parenting but your children will reside primarily with you. The language is dry, but the meaning is fairly straightforward and will likely assuage your concerns.

The Court’s Concern: Child’s Best Interest

When it comes to conservatorship, the court’s concern is always what’s in the children’s best interests. All things being equal – or being relatively equal – the court’s presumption is that joint managing conservatorship is in the best interest of the children. And generally, this is true. Divorce is difficult adults, but it even more difficult for children. After all, the only family they have ever known is changing directions – and they have no say or power within the process. Having both parents closely involved in their lives helps children transition into their changed circumstances with less stress and anxiety and helps ensure a brighter future for all involved.

Your Divorce and Custody in Texas

Every Texas divorce comes with its own unique set of circumstances, and yours is no different in this regard. Working closely with your experienced Houston family law attorney will help you maintain a better understanding of the divorce process throughout. It’s important to remember that your dedicated attorney is on your side. This means that, if any of the terminology – at any time – gives you pause, he or she is there to discuss it with you. Divorce is complicated and very few people make it through without experiencing considerable stress and anxiety. These aren’t the best conditions within which to make important decisions about you and your children’s future, and no one expects you to be perfect. Go easy on yourself, and ask your lawyer for the help you need. If that includes some extra tutoring regarding Texas’s language of child custody, he or she is happy to help.

Readers also found our article, “Child Custody and Leaving the State before a Divorce” helpful.

If You Have Custody Concerns, an Experienced Houston Family Law Attorney Can Help

If you’re going through a divorce, you’re going through a lot, and your children are naturally your number one concern. While Texas does employ some arcane terminology when it comes to post-divorce parenting, this shouldn’t add to your anxiety. The dedicated family law attorneys at the Rudisel Law Firm, P.C., in Houston, understand your trepidation and are here to help. Our experienced law team has the skill, knowledge, and compassion to work closely with you in aggressively advocating for what’s best for you and your children.

Your case is important to us, so please contact or call us at 713-781-7775 to schedule a free consultation today.