child-custody-contentConservatorship, sometimes referred to as custody, is an issue that almost always arises in family law cases. Conservatorship addresses the rights of parents concerning the child and times of possession of the child.

What rights are involved?

The general rule is that both parents will be joint managing conservators of a child. This means that they will share in making decisions and exercising rights concerning the child. Following are examples of the types of rights for the child that the court will address:

• Rights concerning decisions for medical treatment of the child;
• The right to make decisions for the child regarding psychiatric and psychological treatment;
• Decisions affecting the child’s education;
• The right to manage the financial affairs of the child; and
• Consent for the child to marry and to enlist in the military.

Where will the child live?

A significant right involves the right to establish the primary residence of the child. Generally, the court will determine with which parent the child will reside. That parent is then sometimes referred to as the “primary parent.” The remaining parent will in many instances have possession of the child under a set of guidelines known as a Standard Possession Order. This possession schedule usually lists the time of possession with the child for each conservator and generally includes the first, third and fifth weekend of each month, summer visitation, and alternating holidays including spring break.

While these are the general rules, we are experienced in presenting facts to the court to obtain deviations from these standards where warranted based upon the facts. We believe that regardless of the general rule, the most important issue is addressing the particular facts of each case and working with the client to effectively present those facts to the court.

The right to travel with the child

Many parents are concerned about rights affecting travel, particularly international travel for vacations or other family visits. A common solution is to include language in a final order that allows either parent to have the use and possession of the passport upon notice and to require the other parent to sign a consent for travel unless there is a reasonable basis for withholding such consent. A basis for withholding that consent may exist if the U. S. Department of State has issued a travel warning for the area the other parent wishes to visit with the child. Courts are sensitive to issues relating to the safety of the child.

Rights of grandparents

In some instances it is not only parents, but also grandparents that seek conservatorship of a child. Generally, a court limits conservatorship of the child to parents unless it is shown not to be in the best interest of the child. In that case, a grandparent may obtain rights from the court concerning the child.

How much will this cost?

Clients frequently are concerned about the cost of their case. Generally, the cost depends upon whether or not any or all of the issues can be agreed upon. The more time an attorney spends in court or working on a case, the greater the cost. We encourage our clients to resolve those issues that can be resolved and we aggressively pursue those issues that cannot be resolved.