When you are facing a divorce, the fate of your family unit is of foremost concern. Especially if the divorce is contentious, you are probably worried about coming to a custody agreement that is in the best interest of your children.

The state of Texas refers to child custody as conservatorship. If you and the child’s other parent do not have a court order in place for conservatorship, both parents have equal legal rights to make decisions for the child. A state possession order determines visitation or possession.

Understanding joint vs. sole managing conservatorship

Texas family courts strive to establish a joint managing conservatorship, in which both parents share decisions about the child’s education, health care, religious upbringing and other important matters. However, even in this type of arrangement, one parent may solely decide where the child will live. The conservatorship order can prevent the custodial parent from leaving a designated geographic area.

The court establishes a sole managing conservatorship when one parent is absent from the child’s life. The court may also order this arrangement in the case of parental abuse, neglect, violence or substance use.

Establishing a court order

In Texas, the family law judge will establish custody as part of your divorce agreement. If you and your spouse agree on custody and visitation, the court will approve this agreement as long as it is in the child’s best interest.

If you and your spouse disagree about custody, the judge will make this determination based on the child’s best interest. The standard possession order, used by the court to determine visitation for the noncustodial parent, includes visitation on the first, third and fifth weekends of the month, certain holidays, one night a week and for an extended term during school vacations.

Even if you are not currently in possession of your child, you still have the right to participate in and receive information about his or her health and well-being unless a court order states otherwise. Child support is determined separately from visitation and does not legally affect your right to parenting time.