During a divorce, one of the major elements spouses need to work out is child custody. While this can be an emotionally-laden time for everyone involved, understanding the basics of child custody can help smooth the path to a resolution. For questions about how to manage this transition, contact the Frisco child custody lawyers at Nordhaus Walpole PLLC. Our experience with divorce in Texas can help your family take charge of the future.

One of the simplest ways to alleviate stresses is to understand the various child custody types in Texas. To start, the state uses the legal term “conservatorship” to refer to the custody rights each parent has.

Conservatorship rights are essentially determined by what will serve the best interest of the minor child or children. This interest is determined by a number of varying factors and parents can either determine some of the conservatorship rights themselves or, if an agreement cannot be reached, the family court will determine the rights based on evidence.

Managing vs. Possessory Conservatorship

Managing conservatorship is the right of one or both parents to make legal decisions for the child or children. This includes the right to decide aspects of the children’s lives, such as where they attend school or church, how their medical care occurs or other decisions that require legal authority.

Possessory conservatorship is the right of one or both of the parents to access the child physically, either by living primarily with the child or sharing visitation with the child. Usually a child will live primarily with one parent, but the other is still granted possessory conservatorship or physical custody rights.

Joint Conservatorship

In many cases, both parents share both managing and possessory conservatorship rights. Conversationally speaking, this is known as “joint custody.”

In fact, Texas family courts presume that joint managing conservatorship is in the best interest of the child. While possessory conservatorship — the “physical custody” aspect of things — may sometimes be granted more to one parent than the other for practical reasons, having both parents involved as equally as possible in managing conservatorship — the “legal custody” or “decision-making custody” —  is considered best.

Not every responsibility has to be split 50/50 for conservatorship or custody to be considered joint. A child might live with one parent during the school week and spend weekends with the other parent. A child might live with one parent for the first half of the week and with the other the second half of the week.

Additionally, one parent may have managing conservatorship while both share possessory conservatorship.

Sole Conservatorship

Sometimes, unfortunately, one parent is unfit to have custody. This can be for a variety of reasons — emotional, mental, physical or financial. When this happens, the parent who is fit may end up with sole conservatorship or sole custody.

The parent with sole conservatorship has all of the managing and possessory rights of conservatorship related to the child or children.

Child custody may vary widely between families and situations. The main point to remember is that the best interest of the child always dictates the conservatorship. If you need help with conservatorship issues in Frisco, please contact one of our child custody lawyers today.