Austin Conservatorship Lawyers
The child custody, or conservatorship, aspect of a divorce or annulment can be the most emotionally involved, contentious, and legally complex part of all the issues involved. Conservatorship, when disputed, can cause long, drawn-out legal battles between divorcing spouses. If you need representation in an Austin child custody dispute, the law firm of Kirker Davis LLP has years of experience in dealing with family law issues in Texas, including child custody, and can provide you with a strategy for your best course of action.
Oftentimes, parents are unaware of presumptions in Texas that support Joint Managing Conservatorship between parents. Many people get confused about whether or not Joint Managing Conservatorship describes joint decision-making regarding a child or a 50/50 possession schedule. In Texas, the term “Joint Managing Conservatorship” describes decisions that two parents make and share about their child’s medical, dental, surgical, educational, and psychiatric issues, to name a few.
Our Austin conservatorship attorneys at Kirker Davis LLP help clients with child custody matters every day. We help parents determine how they are going to share responsibilities and decision-making for their child when they are no longer living together.
Types of Conservatorships
Although parents are Joint Managing Conservators with each other, sometimes one parent has the exclusive right to determine the child’s primary residence. This parent is often referred to as the “primary conservator.” The other parent has possession of the child pursuant to a possession order and typically pays child support to the primary conservator. However, naming a primary conservator is not always required by the Court. This means that sometimes no parent is designated a primary conservator of a child. Some parents agree to split possession of their children, and others want the children on a more regulated Standard Possession Order. Determining what possession order fits for your family and which parent should be primary conservator is a fact-intensive practice and should be done with the help of an attorney.
Other times, a parent has consistently engaged in unsafe or dangerous behavior that puts the child’s safety at issue. In those instances, our attorneys discuss Sole Managing Conservatorship with clients to determine whether or not one parent should make the exclusive decisions for the child’s medical, educational, surgical, and psychiatric needs. Instead of sharing those decisions jointly with the other parent, Sole Managing Conservatorship allows one parent to exclusively make decisions for the child after consulting with the other.
In instances where the child’s safety is at issue, supervised visitation may be an appropriate way to ensure that a parent can visit with a child in a safe environment. Supervised visitation is not always appropriate; courts have ordered supervised visitation only after very specific conduct on one parent’s behalf. It is very important to discuss with the attorneys at Kirker Davis LLP whether or not Sole Managing Conservatorship or supervised visitation is appropriate for your case. A conversation with our Austin visitation attorneys may also reveal cost-effective alternatives that might be a better fit for your family over time.
Disagreements in Conservatorship
If you cannot reach an agreement with your child’s other parent about the rules, you will need to attend a hearing and present evidence and arguments as to what you want and why you should be awarded what you are asking for. After the presentation of evidence and arguments, the court will make a decision about your family that is beyond your immediate control. Parents try to do everything they can to make decisions for their children and doing they are well taken care of. Combating the risk of having a stranger determine the rules for your family is not a task to place in the hands of an underprepared or unsophisticated attorney. Too much is at stake to not be well prepared.
Under Texas statute, the overarching standard for Austin and Texas courts in making conservatorship determinations is to ensure that children will have frequent and continuing contact with parents who have shown the ability to act in the best interest of the child and to encourage parents to share in the rights and duties of raising a child after they have separated or divorced. If the divorce is not contested, the parties may prepare a written parenting plan that is then submitted to the court. Parenting plans are usually presumed to be in the best interests of the child unless the court makes specific factual findings otherwise. If the court finds that it is in the best interest of the child, it will render an order in accordance with the parenting plan.
In making a child custody determination, the court is charged with considering all relevant factors. The Texas Supreme Court has provided the following non-exhaustive factors to consider in ascertaining the best interest of a child:
- the desires of the child [notice this single ‘factor’ is not controlling]
- the emotional and physical needs of the child now and in the future
- the emotional and physical danger to the child now and in the future
- the parenting abilities of the individuals seeking custody
- the programs available to assist those individuals to promote the best interest of the child
- the plans for the child by these individuals or by the agency seeking custody
- the stability of the home or proposed placement
- the acts or omissions of the parent which may indicate that the existing parent-child relationship is not a proper one
- any excuse for the acts or omissions of the parent
Texas statute provides that once a parent has been appointed as a conservator, he or she has, at all times, the right:
- to receive information from any other conservator of the child concerning the health, education, and welfare of the child
- to confer with the other parent to the extent possible before making a decision concerning the health, education, and welfare of the child
- of access to medical, dental, psychological, and educational records of the child
- to consult with a physician, dentist, or psychologist of the child
- to consult with school officials concerning the child’s welfare and educational status, including school activities
- to attend school activities
- to be designated on the child’s records as a person to be notified in case of an emergency
- to consent to medical, dental, and surgical treatment during an emergency involving an immediate danger to the health and safety of the child
- to manage the estate of the child to the extent the estate has been created by the parent or the parent’s family.
Joint Conservatorship Arrangements
Joint conservatorship is an arrangement where both parents share in making major decisions concerning the child’s upbringing. Joint conservatorship is usually rendered by a court if a written, agreed-upon parenting plan is filed and that plan, as required by Texas statute:
- designates the conservator who has the exclusive right to designate the primary residence of the child and establishes, until modified by further order, the geographic area within which the conservator shall maintain the child’s primary residence, or specifies that the conservator may designate the child’s primary residence without regard to geographic location
- specifies the rights and duties of each parent regarding the child’s physical care, support, and education
- includes provisions to minimize disruption of the child’s education, daily routine, and association with friends
- allocates between the parents, independently, jointly, or exclusively, all of the remaining rights and duties of a parent provided by the statute
- is voluntarily and knowingly made by each parent and has not been repudiated by either parent at the time the order is rendered; and is in the best interest of the child
If you need representation in a child custody proceeding, you should seek experienced legal counsel well-versed in Texas family law. Do not hesitate to contact an Austin Child Custody Lawyer at Kirker Davis LLP for assistance.
Contact an Austin Conservatorship Lawyer
Our attorneys pride themselves on their courtroom skills and ability to help clients avoid risk in their family law case. A divorcing parent should never attend a hearing alone and without legal counsel. Hiring the right attorney to sit next to you in the courtroom and fight for your children’s best interest may be one of the most important decisions of your family’s life. At Kirker Davis LLP, we are honored to represent you in a critical moment in your child’s life. Call (512) 598-0010 to reach out to our experienced attorneys.