If you are in the process of a divorce, you may feel confused regarding your options for parental rights regarding your children. Understanding how parenting rights work in the legal system can be challenging and legally complex. The following is a brief guide to help you understand the different types of parental rights available, as well as custody options.

Terminology

Many parents feel overwhelmed regarding the legal terminology used regarding parental and custody rights. The following is an overview of common terms used in the state of Texas.

  • Possessory Conservatorship – The legal right of a parent to have a child be physically present with them for a period of time, which may include overnight visits.
  • Managing Conservatorship – The legal right of a parent to make life decisions regarding their child which may include decisions about education, religion or health decisions.
  • Joint Managing Conservatorship – Often called joint custody, can refer to either legal or physical custody and describes a situation where both parents have legal rights to the child.
  • Sole Managing Conservatorship – Often called sole custody, can also refer to either legal or physical custody and describes a situation where only one parent has legal rights to the child.
  • Termination of Parental Rights – A parent will have no legal rights to a child.

Possessory Conservatorship

Courts tend to prefer to give joint possessory conservatorship of a child to both parents, as typically it is in the best interest of the child to maintain an ongoing relationship with both parents. Possessory conservatorship includes a visitation schedule that will be binding upon both parents. One parent does not have the legal right to keep a child away from the other parent under these legally binding agreements. Joint possessory conservatorship works best when both parents of the child live close to each other. However, even in cases where one parent lives in another state, a possessory conservatorship arrangement can be modified to include extended periods of time during summer vacation or holidays. Additionally, it is important to note that child support payments will likely be made from the non-possessory parent to the possessory parent (the parent that has more physical custody time.) These calculations can be complex, and therefore, it is always wise to visit with an experienced attorney to help ensure your legal rights are protected.

Managing Conservatorship

Courts also tend to prefer awarding joint managing conservatorship to both parents. This will allow both parents to have the legal right to make decisions regarding a child’s education, health decisions, and religion. In cases of joint managing conservatorship, both parents must ensure that the other parent’s wishes are upheld, and do not have the legal right to make any life-altering decisions on behalf of the child without the other parent’s consent.

Termination of Parental Rights

Termination of parental rights may occur either through voluntary termination or involuntary termination. Voluntary termination typically occurs in cases of adoption. Involuntary termination is rare and typically occurs when there are instances of child abuse or neglect. However, in both circumstances, the legal termination of parental rights ultimately means that a parent loses all rights and decision-making authority with respect to their child permanently.

Sole Conservatorship vs. Termination of Parental Rights

It is important to note that receiving sole managing or possessory conservatorship does not terminate the other parent’s rights to the child. There may be reasons that one parent receives sole managing or possessory conservatorship, however, the other parent will still have the legal right to visit with their child. When parental rights are terminated, all communication is prohibited between a parent and a child. This is a very different circumstance than one parent having sole custody of a child.

Contact an Experienced Family Law Attorney

If you are going through a divorce or considering a divorce, your primary concern is likely how your situation will affect your relationship with your children. Contact an experienced family law attorney at The Blacknall Firm, so that you can ensure your rights to your children remain protected, and you receive the most physical custody possible.