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FAQs About
Child Custody
In Texas

Frequently Asked Questions About Child Custody in Texas

What is child custody in Texas?

In Texas, the legal term for child custody is conservatorship. Custody and conservatorship both describe your relationship with a child when there is a court order place.

What types of conservatorships are there in Texas?

An individual that has been granted court-ordered custody of a child in Texas is called a “conservator.”

There are three types of conservator relationships:

  • Joint Managing Conservator
  • Sole Managing Conservator
  • Possessory Conservator

What is a Joint Managing Conservator?

Under Texas law, parents are usually designated Joint Managing Conservators and share decision-making power over most issues including education and healthcare. This does not mean the time spent with each parent is split equally. A possession order will specify which parent has the right to spend time with their child at what times and days.

In the majority of joint conservatorship orders, one parent will have exclusive rights to decide where a child lives (usually within a certain area). This parent is called the “custodial” or “primary” parent and generally cares for their children most of the time. The other parenting role is referred to as non-custodial parents. Learn about lifting geographic restrictions in Texas custody orders.

What is a Sole Managing Conservator?

In some instances, a  judge may decide that it isn’t in the children’s best interest for both parents to share conservatorship. When this scenario arises the judge will name one of the parents, or if both parents are deemed unfit a non-parent, as the sole managing conservator.


There are several reasons that may be present in a family that could lead a judge to appoint a sole managing conservator. These include but are not limited to proof of violence by a parent, alcohol or drug abuse, and child abuse or neglect. When a sole managing conservator has been appointed, that individual obtains the exclusive right to make most decisions about the children involved.

What is a Possessory Conservator?

In Texas, if one parent is named the sole managing conservator the other parent is named a possessory conservator. The possessory conservator is granted the right to visitation with the child. The only instances where possessory conservatorship is withheld are in extenuating circumstances where a parent has exhibited a history of violence, drug or alcohol abuse, or child neglect.

There are several rights and duties that a possessory conservator will share with a child’s managing conservator. These rights include but are not limited to:


  • Obtain information regarding the child’s education, health, and welfare.
  • Attend the child’s schools activities, access educational information, and speak with school officials pertaining to the child’s academics.
  • Have access to medical records, consult with medical professionals, and be listed as an emergency contact for the child.


When the child is under the supervision of a possessory conservator it is the parent’s duty to support, care for, and protect the child. This support includes feeding, clothing, and providing the child with proper shelter. Speak with a Texas family lawyer now if you have questions about conservatorship or schedule a FREE consultation to discuss the details of your custody case.

How can I change an existing custody order?

If a court order establishing a conservatorship is already in place, it can be changed by bringing a modification case in front of a judge. Speak with a Texas family lawyer now if you have questions about modifying an existing conservatorship order or schedule a FREE consultation to discuss the details of your custody case.

Do I need to hire a lawyer to help me with my Texas custody case?

You don’t need to hire a lawyer to file or respond to a Texas custody case, but it can be complicated to navigate on your own. It’s always a good idea to talk with an attorney about your situation, even if you decided not the hire one. A lawyer can explain your rights and legal options as they apply to your unique case.

What is the most common custody arrangement in Texas?

There are several options when it comes to making a parenting plan and setting a custody schedule. One schedule that is frequently used is the 4-3 option, with one parent having four days a week with the child and the other parent taking care of them for three days out of the week. The 2-2-5-5 pattern is also often employed by many families. In this scenario children spend two days with each of their parents, then five days in each home. Try our parenting time calculator to see which schedule works best for you.

How do Texas judges make decisions regarding child custody?

When presiding over matters concerning child custody, San Antonio judges use what is known as the “best interest of the child” standard to help guide their decisions. Texas Family Code Section 153.002 states:

The best interest of the child shall always be the primary consideration of the court in determining the issues of conservatorship and possession of and access to the child.

What factors into the best interest of a child?

A Texas Supreme Court decision set the legal precedent for the factors to consider in child custody cases as a result of the 1976 case, Holley v. Adams. The factors outlined in this case that are still taken into consideration today are as follows:

  • The desires of the child
  • The emotional and physical needs of the child now and in the future
  • The emotional and physical danger (of one parent) to the child now and in the future
  • The parental abilities of the individuals seeking custody
  • The programs available to assist the parents
  • The plans for the child by these individuals
  • The stability of both parties’ homes and any acts or omissions of a parent may indicate that the existing parent-child relationship is not a proper one
  • Any excuse for the acts or omissions of a parent.


While there are additional factors that a judge may consider, this list provides you with a solid idea of the types of considerations a judge will evaluate when making a custody determination.

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