The end of a marriage can be complex for Dallas parents. Following divorce or separation, the parents are granted child custody through agreement or court order. Custody, also known as conservatorship in Texas, specifies a parent’s legal rights and obligations. These rights include the ability to receive information from the other parent concerning the child’s health, well-being and education and allows access to these records. Custody permits a parent to speak to the child’s doctor and teacher and to grant consent for emergency medical and dental treatment for the child.

The first type of custody is sole managing conservatorship, which grants sole custody to one of the parents. Under SMC, the parent has these general custody rights and other rights including child support, determining the child’s primary residence and the right to make educational decisions. A court may order SMC if the other parent was violent or negligent, has a criminal record, abused drugs or alcohol or was absent from the child’s life. Other grounds include severe conflict among the parents over educational, medical or spiritual values or if one parent does not want custody.

Under the second type, joint managing conservatorship, both parents share custody duties and rights. However, a court may designate one parent as the custodial parent with the sole authority to make certain decisions such as where the child resides. A court order or a court-approved agreement may award JMC. The best interests of the child are reviewed when a court considers JMC. These include the child’s health, psychological or emotional needs, the ability to make joint decisions for the child’s interest, whether the child is the parents’ first priority, whether each parent encourages a positive relationship with children and the other parent, the role each parent played in raising the child and the geographical distances between the parents’ residences.

Finally, possessory conservatorship grants a parent the same rights and responsibilities held by the other parent except for making decisions on the child’s primary home. Judges, however, may limit these rights. Normally, a judge grants possessory conservatorship to one parent if the other parent is awarded sole managing conservatorship. Judges will not grant possessory conservatorship to a parent if it violates the child’s best interest.

Divorced parents dealing with this or other divorce issue should understand how to resolve them. An attorney can assist parents with asserting their custody rights and with enforcing a child custody order.