A Brief Examination of Parental Rights under Texas Law

If you are considering initiating divorce proceedings or have already done so, you may have come across the phrase “conservatorship” and been left slightly confused. This is entirely understandable. Simply put, “conservatorship” is the legal term for child custody in the state of Texas.

However, it is important to know that regardless of the term you use, conservatorship/child custody refers only to parental obligations and rights. It is a completely separate concept from the amount of time spent with a child (a.k.a. visitation).


In Texas, two different types of conservatorships may be awarded to parents:

  1. Joint managing conservatorships or
  2. Sole managing conservatorships

The type of conservatorship ultimately awarded will be based on a “best interests of the child” legal analysis. However, joint managing conservatorships are typically viewed by the family courts as being in the child’s best interests.

Joint Managing Conservatorship (JMC)

The most common outcome is for both the mother and the father to be appointed joint managing conservators. What does this mean? Simply put, both parents will share the following parental rights and responsibilities:

  • The right to establish the child’s residence
  • The right to consent to medical treatment
  • The right to make decisions related to education
  • The right to pay/receive child support
  • Among others

While both parents may be appointed joint managing conservators, one parent will be appointed possessory conservator (PC) and the other appointed primary joint managing conservator (PJMC).

The PJMC establishes the child’s primary residence (within a geographic area designated by the court). In essence, the PJMC is the parent with whom the child will live for the majority of the time.

Sole Managing Conservatorship (SMC)

In the rare circumstances that a parent is appointed a sole managing conservatorship (SMC), he or she will be given the most parental rights and responsibilities (see above).

Under what general conditions can a person appointed an SMC?

  • If the other parent has a history of family violence
  • If the other parent has a history of being absent from the child’s life
  • If the other parent has a history of criminal conduct and/or substance abuse
  • Future posts will continue to examine conservatorship/child custody in the state of Texas.

The following is for informational purposes only and not to be construed as legal advice. Contact a legal professional to learn more about your family law issue.