San Antonio Child Custody Attorneys
Working with You to Protect Your Child's Rights & Best Interests
Child custody disputes are often the most contentious part of divorce and paternity cases. As a parent engaged in a custody case, you may be worried that you'll get less time with your child than you believe is equitable.
At The Law Office of Derek S. Ritchie, PLLC, we'll work with you to ensure you and your child's rights and best interests remain protected throughout your case.
How Does Child Custody (Conservatorship) Work in TX?
Texas uses the word "conservatorship" as the legal term for custody in the state.
In a conservatorship, parents can occupy two "roles:"
- Custodial parent. The custodial parent is the caretaker the child spends a majority of their time with.
- Non-custodial parent. The non-custodial parent is the caretaker the child spends a minority of their time with.
There are also two types of custody:
- Physical custody, which determines where a child lives, and;
- Legal custody, which determines how much control each parent has over a child's rights (such as the medical care they receive, where they attend school, the cultures they're exposed to, etc.).
There are two primary types of conservatorships that are common during child custody disputes:
- Joint managing conservatorships (JMCs). In a JMC, the child spends time living with each parent. Whichever parent the child spends more time with (even if it's just one more night per year) is considered the custodial parent. Generally, the custodial parent can decide where the child lives, which can also impact other factors, such as the school they attend. Courts often try to establish JMCs under the assumption that it's generally healthy for children to spend a certain amount of time with each parent growing up. Depending on the circumstances of the case, the parents may have a nearly equal timeshare (meaning the child spends almost the same amount of time living with each parent), or one that's slightly less balanced.
Sole managing conservatorships (SMCs). In an SMC, the child only lives with one parent. That caretaker, the
custodial parent, also generally has total control over the child's physical
and legal custody. Sole managing conservatorships are more common in situations
where one parent has been deemed "unfit" to act as a caretaker
by the court. A court may think an SMC is necessary if:
- One parent has a history of violence to the child or their former spouse;
- One parent has a history of substance abuse;
- One parent has been largely absent from the child's life.
However, it may still be possible for the other parent to see their child as a possessory conservator. Possessory conservators may only have visitation rights and may need to visit their child with another individual present to ensure they do not harm them.
The relationship parents have with one another often plays a central role in the outcome of child custody cases.
In situations where the parents are amicable and agree with one another on terms for a conservatorship arrangement, they can develop a parenting plan together. The parenting plan lays out the type of conservatorship and timeshare arrangement the parents want to obtain. A court can then approve of the parenting plan, finalizing the conservatorship order. This is often the least combative, fastest way to finalize a custody dispute.
Alternatively, suppose the parents disagree on how to approach custody. In that case, they can attend court and make their arguments to a family law judge, including presenting a proposed parenting plan by each party. The court will then make a final judgment that establishes a legally binding conservatorship arrangement for the parents. This process is often longer and more expensive but may be necessary if the parents cannot agree on terms for a conservatorship.
Regardless of how you intend to approach custody, you deserve a legal advocate you can trust to represent your (and your child's) needs, rights, and best interests in and out of the courtroom.
At The Law Office of Derek S. Ritchie, PLLC, our veteran San Antonio child custody attorneys can help you move towards an optimal outcome in your child support case. We have experience working with cases between parents and Child Protective Services (CPS).