The Basics of Child Custody in Texas

Know What You May Face

One of the areas of a divorce that can be quite heated is child custody. Known as conservatorship in Texas, determining who is the conservator of a child and how possession and access works can seem tricky. Here is what you should know about the basic tenets of custody laws in Texas.

Key Terminology

As mentioned, while many people use the word “custody,” the Texas Family Code uses the word “conservatorship” to mean the same concept. A parent given conservatorship over a child is known as the “conservator” rather than the custodial parent.

Types of Conservatorship

Texas law provides two forms of conservatorship: managing and possessory. These terms are similar to the more familiar phrases “legal custody” and “physical custody,” respectively.

Managing conservatorship, or legal custody, refers to the responsibility to make decisions on behalf of a child. These decisions can include areas such as religious observance, medical treatment, and school choice. Texas family code prefers that this responsibility be given to both parents after a divorce, in which case they share joint managing conservatorship. If, on the rare occasion, only one parent can make decisions for a child, that parent has sole managing conservatorship.

Possessory conservatorship, or physical custody, means that the child resides with that parent. The parent that does not have this conservatorship can have a schedule for visitation. In some instances, the parents of a child are able to work together to craft a visitation schedule, but if they are unable to do so, then Texas law does provide a standard possession order for them to follow (should the court feel another alternative is not needed).

Factors Determining Conservatorship

When in a custody case where a judge will be making the determination, there are several factors that may be taken into consideration. These factors may include the following:

  • The physical, emotional, and mental health and needs of the child.

  • The desires of the child.

  • The presence of any physical or emotional danger to the child.

  • The ability of each parent seeking custody to effectively parent the child.

  • The plans for the child that each parent seeking custody has.

  • Any programs available that would promote a parent’s ability to meet the child’s best interests.

  • Any actions taken or not taken by a parent that might demonstrate they are not capable of parenting the child (and any defense of said actions).

Above all else, the number one determining factor when awarding custody is the best interest of the child.


Life circumstances may change to the point where your current conservatorship order no longer works or no longer meets the child’s needs. If this is the case, you are allowed to seek a modification to your conservatorship order. Note that Texas courts permit modifications under very specific conditions. These circumstances include the following:

  • The life circumstances of the conservator, the other parent, or the child have changed both materially and significantly.

  • The child, who would have to be at least 12 years old, tells the judge who they would prefer to live with.

  • The primary conservator has let someone else have primary care for the child for at least six months.

Modification is a very complex process, so as always it is important to consult your custody attorney on how to proceed with such matters.

Utilizing a Texas Conservatorship Attorney

Custody arrangements, whether during your divorce or when seeking a modification, can be very complicated and cause a lot of stress. Rather than try to fight this battle alone, you should work with an attorney capable of handling your custody case. Jeff Gilbert Law Office has helped numerous clients work through custody issues and wants to do the same for you. No matter how complicated your custody situation, we are committed to helping you fight for the best possible outcome.

To schedule a consultation with our team of attorneys, call us at (979) 200-6556 or visit us online.