Common Misconceptions in Family Law – Full Custody
By Larry Chamberlin & Jaime Culotta
You may have heard the term “Full Custody” on television or in movies. The term is often understood to describe a situation in which one parent has complete control over the children, including where they live and how often they see the other parent. While this term is widely used, “Full Custody” is not recognized in the state of Texas. The remainder of this article will discuss the real-world counterpart to “Full Custody” – Sole Managing Conservatorship, as well as the more likely outcome – Joint Managing Conservatorship.
Joint Managing Conservatorship is mandated in Texas unless the Court is able to find good cause to overcome the presumption for Joint Managing Conservatorship and name one parent Sole Managing Conservator. Some parents feel they should be able to cut the other parent out of the lives of the children simply due to the animosity they have for the other parent. Often a triggering event causes this anger, such as the arrival on the scene of a new boyfriend or girlfriend. This kind of attitude indicates an unwillingness to co-parent and often backfires on the hostile parent.
Conservatorship, whether sole or joint, can provide for the following items: (1) who determines the children’s primary residence, (2) the amount of time each parent spends with the children, and (3) the usual allocation of rights and duties regarding the children. When one of the parties is designated as the “Sole Managing Conservator”, the other is designated as a “Possessory Conservator.” The great majority of the time both parties are designated as “Joint Managing Conservators.”
The Conservator given the right to determine the primary residence will have possession of the children at all times not awarded to the other parent in the possession order outlined in either the divorce degree or child custody order. The same Conservator will generally also have the exclusive right to determine what school the children will attend. The standard possession order states the parties shall have possession of the children at all times mutually agreed upon in advance by the parties. Failing agreement, visitation shall be in accordance with the order.
Parents who are designated as Joint Managing Conservators by the Court share possession of the children as outlined in the divorce degree or child custody order. The children will reside with both parents, and there is somewhat more time allocated to the parent who is awarded the exclusive right to determine where the children will live.
The most common possession order is a “Standard Possession Order”, which usually includes Thursday evenings from 6pm to 8pm, every 1st, 3rd, and 5th weekend beginning on Friday and ending on Sunday, as well as provisions for Summer and Spring Vacations, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, the children’s birthdays, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. Under appropriate circumstances pick up time may be when school is out and return may be to school. Neither parent has the right to interfere with the other parent’s visitation rights.
If you have been denied visitation with or possession of your child(ren) and would like to learn more about your legal options, contact our office to schedule a FREE 1-hour consultation.