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The Basics of Child Custody in Texas

| Apr 28, 2023 | Family Law/Divorce

The State of Texas refers to child custody as “conservatorship.” The person with the court ordered conservatorship of the child is called the “conservator.” There are three different types of conservators in Texas.

  • Joint Managing ConservatorA joint managing conservator is the result of the court ordering a joint conservatorship. This is the preferred outcome in Texas, and means that the parents share decision-making about most issues, including healthcare and education. Though the decision-making is equally shared between the parents, custody is not. Instead, one parent will typically be named the “custodial parent,” and the child will live primarily with this parent. The other parent is called the “non-custodial parent,” and has visitation rights that will be determined by an agreement between the parents, or by the court should an agreement not be reached. A joint conservatorship will likely not be ordered if there is a history or pattern of violence by one parent against the other.
  • Sole Managing ConservatorWhen the court finds that there is a history or pattern of violence by one parent against the other, or that one of the parents has committed child abuse or some other form of misconduct, it will likely name the other parent the sole managing conservator. A sole managing conservator has the exclusive right to make most decisions about the child, including the child’s residence, healthcare, and education.
  • Possessory ConservatorWhen one parent is named the sole managing conservator, the other parent is typically named the possessory conservator. Though the possessory conservator will have visitation rights, he or she does not have the final say on most decisions.


If there is already a conservatorship in place, the Texas Family Code allows a party to seek a modification, or change, in the conservatorship. In order to obtain a modification, the party moving for modification must show that it would be in the best interest of the child for the conservatorship to change. Additionally, the party must show one of the following three things:

  • The circumstances of the child, conservator, or other party affected by the conservatorship have materially and substantially changed.
  • The child is at least 12 years old and has expressed to the court his preference for the conservatorship to be modified.
  • The conservator with the right to determine the residence of the child has voluntarily given up care and possession of the child for at least 6 months.

A modification of a conservatorship can also be accomplished should the parties to the order come to an agreement, and sign a form showing that an agreement was reached.

Whether you are going through a divorce where child custody is at issue, creating a custody arrangement, or modifying an existing arrangement, you need a skilled attorney to help your voice be heard. We want to help ensure that your children’s best interests are protected and your needs are met. Let us help.