One important agreement parents make when divorce happens is what is best for the children. Using that as a base, an arrangement is structured that outlines whether one or both parents are responsible for decisions pertinent to the child's care. If parents are unable to reach a mutually agreeable arrangement, the court will decide.
Certain terms define parental rights. In Texas, a conservator is the child's legal guardian, and a parent is designated the child's conservator and has certain responsibilities and rights as part of the conservatorship.
The court may decide to give only one parent the right to make decisions about the child, which is called a sole managing conservatorship. If one parent has such issues as drug or alcohol abuse, criminal behavior or domestic violence, they may not be viewed as a good choice as a for a joint managing conservatorship. The SMC decides where the child will live, answer medical and education questions and determine who will attend school meetings and be contacted in an emergency. The responsibilities parents have as JMCs are specified by the court, and some may be shared and others held separately. These include decisions about health care, education and psychological issues.
Conservatorship is not the same as physical custody. Even if parents share parental responsibilities and rights, they may not necessarily share child custody equally. This is decided through implementation of a Standard Possession Order.
In Texas, there is a desire to involve both parents in the lives of their children after divorce. Structuring that to enable the child to have a sense of continuity and cohesiveness is important. An attorney may work to structure an agreement viable for both parents and also offer guidance if modification is ever required.
Source: Findlaw, "Child Custody in Texas", August 28, 2014