1) What are conservatorship orders?
The Texas Family Code speaks in terms of post divorce conservatorship of children, meaning the legal status between the children and their parents after the divorce and relates to controlling the children's lives, having possession at and access to the children,and supporting the children.
The Code expressly sets out a non-exclusive list of the rights, privileges,duties and powers of parents. In a nutshell, these rights and duties maybe categorized into three areas: (1) the right to make major decisions regarding the children; (2) the right to have physical possession of the children; and (3) the duty to financially support the children. Conservatorship orders divide these various rights and duties among the parents after the divorce.
2) Can I get joint custody of my children?
A court may order that both parties are to be "joint managing conservators of the children. This is true, whether or not the parties agree to the joint appointment. Thus, both parents are, jointly, managing conservators,and neither is a possessory conservator. Joint managing conservatorship is often agreed to by the parties. There is a refutable presumption in Texas Law that appointing the parties Joint Managing Conservators is in the best interest of children.
It should be noted, however, that joint managing conservatorships vary.A joint managing conservatorship order may be either a "pure" or real joint managing conservator, or a joint managing conservatorship in name only,or any combination thereof. A "pure" (real) joint managing conservatorship authorizes both parents to equally exercise jointly all of the rights,privileges, duties and powers of a parent. On the other hand, under a joint managing conservatorship which exists in name only, while both parents are given the title of joint managing conservator, one parent is in reality,by the detailed terms of the joint managing conservatorship order, given all of the rights and duties of a sole managing conservator, while the other "joint managing Conservatoris in reality treated like a possessory conservator. There are advantages and disadvantages to going either route.
Texas has a "joint custody" law that encourages judges to award " joint managing conservatorship" to parents. This designation has no independent meaning. It certainly does not "mean" the children live one week with one parent and the next week with the other parent. To know what joint managing conservatorship will mean to you must look to the court order itself where the powers and duties of each parent are defined.The rights most often argued over are the rights to make medical and educational decisions. The court can award powers to one parent or to both parents.If a power is awarded to both parents, the court will specify if these rights are to be exercised independently or jointly.
The court will also award the right to determine domicile to a parent or if not to a parent then specify a county as the domicile of the child.
3. What is the visitation schedule like?
The visiting parent will be given certain exact times of possession of and access to the children. Usually, one parent is considered to be the primary custodian of the child and has the child at all times except for those times of possession given to the other parent, while the other parent is given certain court ordered times of possession of and access to the children (sometimes referred to as "visitation rights").
The legislature has by statue adopted what is referred to as a "standard visitation schedule".
Basically, the standard possession order gives the non-custodial parent the right to possession of the children on every first, third and fifth weekend (Friday through Sunday), every Wednesday evening or overnight,one half of all holidays and thirty days in the summer. Excluding the time that the children are asleep or in school, the schedule gives the non-custodialparent about 45% of the quality time with the children. For many reasons,judges rarely vary from this Standard Possession Order and only do so under unusual circumstances (e.g.. child is under three years of age and for people who live more than 100 miles apart
4) If I have custody of our children, can I relocate with them to another metropolitan area?
It is common for a judge to restrain the parents from removing the residence of the children from "Tarrant and contiguous counties" Such orders are common where both parents have a considerable amount of time with the children and removing them from the metropolitan area would be disruptive to the children and their development. Such orders depend on the judge of the particular case.