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Types of Child Custody in Texas [Guide]

Nothing in life is more important to you than your children. That is why child custody, child support, and visitation issues can be the most stressful part of getting a divorce. The dissolution of a marriage is already very emotional and exhausting, and the many legal issues and choices make the process even more difficult. Experienced, caring family law attorneys can help to relieve that burden by helping you focus on what is best for your children. Like many other state courts, Texas courts make decisions based on what is in the best interests of the child. Your Texas family law attorney can help you understand the different kinds of custody and prepare your case so the judge will have a clear picture of the situation.

The Two Kinds of Child Custody

Under Texas child custody laws, there are two basic kinds of child custody: (1) conservatorship and (2) possession and access. These different kinds of custody determine issues such as how much time each parent spends with the children and who can make important decisions regarding education, medical care, religion, and other important issues. The judge will make decisions regarding custody based on factors such as the wishes of the parents, the relationship of the children with each parent, and any history of drug use or violence.


Conservatorship defines who can make important decisions for the child. Without a court order, either parent can make decisions without the permission of the other one. There are three types of conservators:

  • Joint managing conservators share important decision-making duties, such as decisions about health care and education. This applies regardless of how much time each parent spends with the child. Your children may live solely with one parent and visit the other parent every other weekend, but both parents may have equal input about important decisions. In fact, Texas courts prefer for parents to be joint managing conservators. This kind of conservatorship is not recommended if there is a history of violence between the parents. When there is a joint conservatorship, there may be some decisions left to one party, such as where the children will live, but parents still get input on other important decisions.
  • Sole managing conservators are individuals who have the sole right to make decisions about the children. This person may not even be a parent, but the judge may feel that appointing a sole managing conservator is in the child’s best interest when there is a need to protect the child, such as when one or both parents have a history of violence or drug use.
  • Possessory conservators are simply individuals who retain their rights as parents without having the authority to make important decisions. This usually happens when either one of the parents is the sole managing conservator or if the judge has appointed a nonparent to be the sole managing conservator.

Possession and Access

A possession order details how much time each parent can or will spend with each child, along with when. There are multiple kinds of possession orders, depending on the circumstances:

  • Standard possession orders are for children who are at least three years old. When parents get along, the standard possession order simply says that each parent can have the child when they both agree. When parents don’t get along, the court will make an order based on a standard visitation schedule and on whether the parents live within 100 miles of each other.
  • If there are changes to a standard possession order, the court will call the order a modified possession order.
  • There are special possession orders for children under three because of the special needs of younger children. You can work out an informal agreement with the other parent or present evidence for the judge to decide. Make sure to put into the order what will happen when the child ages out.
  • Finally, there are supervised possession orders where the parents exercise their visitation time under the supervision of a third party, such as a family member or an outside agency. Under very rare circumstances, a judge may order that one parent not be allowed to visit at all.

We Can Help

There are serious consequences for violating a Texas custody order, so it is important to have an order that really benefits your family. The attorneys at Setzer Law Firm in Colleyville have the knowledge and experience to help you decide the best way to move forward. With a combined 30 years of legal experience, we have represented clients throughout the Dallas/Fort Worth area in every area of family law. We can help you fight for joint or sole custody, more visitation, or more input into important decision-making, or we can assist in modifying existing orders. If you have any questions about a child custody issue, call to speak to one of our compassionate attorneys today.

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