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Terms you need to know as a divorcing Texas parent

On Behalf of | Oct 11, 2023 | Family Law

If you’re a Texas parent considering divorce, you’re likely doing some research on the law ahead of seeking legal representation. If so, chances are that you’re seeing some terms that may seem odd in the context of parenting.

For example, what you may know as visitation or physical custody is called “possession” under Texas law. Possession orders detail when parents have the right to spend time with their child.

Types of possession orders in Texas

Unless a child is under three, the law presumes that a standard possession order will be followed. The specifics of a standard possession order can be determined by the parents. If they can’t agree, a judge will set the terms based on the law.

There are three other types of possession orders:

  • Modified: This can be used if a standard order isn’t working or appropriate.
  • Possession order for a child under three: This assumes that young children have unique needs.
  • Supervised: This is for cases where another adult must be present with a parent and child for a child’s safety and well-being.

It’s possible (and not uncommon) to start with one type of order and then move to another type as things change.

Understanding conservatorship

Another term you’ve likely seen that can be confusing in the context of co-parenting is conservatorship. It refers to decision-making authority over a child that’s detailed in a court order. In some states that’s called “legal custody.”

Texas recognizes three types of conservators for a child:

  • Joint managing conservator: When both parents have the right to make major decisions for their child on things like education and medical care, they’re considered joint managing conservators. This is separate from how much time a child spends with each parent, as outlined in the possession order.
  • Sole managing conservator: This is a parent with all the parental decision-making authority for a child. It’s typically used when there’s a history of parental substance abuse, violence or neglect or one parent is largely absent.
  • Possessory conservator: When one parent is the sole managing conservator, the other is often the possessory conservator. They have the right to spend time with their child but have no authority to make major life decisions for them.

It’s a lot to consider, and this introduction to these subjects only scratches their surface. By seeking experienced legal guidance, however, you can work to get the best possible agreements in place for your child via a truly informed approach.