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Basic terms regarding child custody in Texas

When you are going through a child custody battle in Texas, you will likely come across some terms that might make you wonder exactly what they are talking about. It is important for all parents to fully understand the child custody documents and orders as they go through this sometimes complex process. Knowing the basic terms used in Texas child custody cases might help to make the stressful process a little easier.

One way that Texas differs from some other states is that it doesn't use the term custodian or the term custody. Instead, child custody is referred to as conservatorship with the parent or guardian being referred to as the conservator.

As part of the conservatorship, you might see information about the possession of and access to a child. Possession of and access to a child is the Texas version of visitation. When a judge creates a visitation schedule for the child, it is called a standard possession order.

There are two forms of conservatorship in Texas. The first is the sole managing conservatorship, which occurs when the court opts to make one parent responsible for all aspects of the child's care. That parent decides all facets of the child's life and care, including educational, medical and residential decisions.

The second form of conservatorship is the joint managing conservatorship, which gives both parents the responsibility of making choices for the child. In some cases, the judge might award each parent specific aspects of the child's life to control.

Because conservatorship guidelines are complex, parents going through the process should ensure they fully understand all court orders and documents. Whether they are seeking JMC or SMC, the child's interests must be put before the wishes of the parents. Protecting those interests might be easier with knowledge of the law.

Source: FindLaw, "Child Custody in Texas" Aug. 21, 2014

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