You won’t find the word Child Custody in the Texas Family Code, but rather the word Conservatorship. Conservatorship of children includes a number of rights, privileges and duties including “the right to determine domicile” – or where the child lives. This is the Texas Family Code definition of Child Custody!
Other rights include the right to determine where the child goes to school, the right to make educational decisions for the child, the right to consent to medical procedure – particularly invasive elective procedures, as well as other rights.
Visitation in Texas refers to “possession and access” of the child by the non-custodial parent on specific dates and at specific times. The parties can make a decision about specific dates and times which is always subject to the approval of the Judge who employs the Standard of Best Interest of the Child.
Joint Managing Conservators (JMC) is presumed in Texas and largely indicates that the parents share in the rights, privileges and duties and co-parent the child/children. Decisions are often made after the parents consult with each other, and can be made jointly. If this is the case, a tie-breaker is needed, and in dealing with medical decisions is usually the child’s physician.
In the event the presumption of JMC is rebutted by credible evidence, then the custodial parent would be the Sole Managing Conservator (SMC) and the non-custodial parent would be the Possessory Conservator (PC). Situations supporting a rebuttal are where a parent is incarcerated, has a drug or alcohol problem, or has committed domestic violence against the other parent and/or a child of the marriage. The PC generally has lesser rights and frequently is absent and not involved in the decision making process involving the child.
The guidelines for possession and access of children in the State of Texas are stated in the Texas Family Code as the Standard Possession Order (SPO). These guidelines provide for possession times of the visiting parent on weekends (1st, 3rd and 5th), alternating Spring Breaks, Father’s/Mother’s Day weekends, summer, Thanksgiving and Christmas. In cases where the parents reside greater than 100 miles apart, additional time during Spring Break and the Summer is provided for generally less frequent, but longer periods of duration of periods of possession. These are sometimes referred to the “long distance” possession and access.