Abuse and Joint Custody in Texas

No. In Texas, a parent with a history of abuse cannot be appointed as a joint managing conservator. The appointment of joint managing conservators is strictly regulated by law.

Criteria for Joint Managing Conservators

The law is clear. “[t]he court may not appoint joint managing conservators if credible evidence is presented of a history or pattern of past or present child neglect, or physical or sexual abuse by one parent directed against the other parent, a spouse, or a child . . . .” TEX. FAM. CODE ANN. § 153.004(b).

The term “history” is not defined by the legislature. In re Marriage of Stein, 153 S.W.3d 485, 489 (Tex. App.—Amarillo 2004, no pet.). However, the court has discretion. One instance of physical abuse can constitute a history of abuse. Id.; see Chacon v. Gribble, No. 03-18-00737-CV, 2019 Tex. App. LEXIS 10286, at *7-12 (Tex. App.—Austin Nov. 27, 2019, no pet.) (mem. op.).

Rights of a Sole Managing Conservator

A parent appointed as the sole managing conservator has specific rights. The statute states:

Unless limited by court order, a parent appointed as sole managing conservator of a child has the rights and duties provided by Subchapter B and the following exclusive rights . . .the right to receive and give receipt for periodic payments for the support of the child and to hold or disburse these funds for the benefit of the child.” TEX. FAM. CODE ANN. § 153.132(4).

This right is exclusive. Several courts have interpreted it as prohibiting a possessory conservator from receiving child support from a sole managing conservator. Peterson v. Office of the AG, 990 S.W.2d 830, 833 (Tex. App.—Fort Worth 1999, no pet.); Lueg v. Lueg, 976 S.W.2d 308, 313 (Tex. App.—Texarkana 1998, pet. denied); see S.L. v. S.L., No. 02-19-00017-CV, 2020 Tex. App. LEXIS 6002, at *12 (Tex. App.—Fort Worth July 30, 2020, no pet.) (mem. op.).

Rights of a Possessory Conservator

The statutory provisions for a possessory conservator are outlined. They are limited to those rights “expressly granted” by the trial court “in the order.” TEX. FAM. CODE ANN. § 153.192(a).

The statute also provides that the trial court “may order either or both parents to support a child in the manner specified by the order . . . .” Id. at § 154.001(a). However, no provision expressly grants a possessory conservator the right to receive child support. See Lueg, 976 S.W.2d at 313.

Statutory Interpretation

The specific provision, TEX. FAM. CODE ANN. § 153.132(4), governs. It deals specifically with child support in situations where there is a sole managing conservator. This provision controls over general statutes regarding child support. See Springer v. Johnson, 280 S.W.3d 322, 329 (Tex. App.—Amarillo 2008, no pet.).

Limiting the right granted to a sole managing conservator differs from transferring it to a possessory conservator. Limitation means restricted, not subject to transfer. The right to receive child support remains with the sole managing conservator.

Understanding these distinctions is crucial. They impact the financial and custodial arrangements in family law cases.

To retain an experienced Texas divorce lawyer for your divorce or child custody case in DallasDentonCollin or Rockwall County, please schedule a consultation with us today.