The legal term “conservatorship” has been in the news often recently, in reports about the unusual business affairs of pop star Britney Spears. Texas parents who are going through a divorce may be surprised to see the term pop up in their divorce proceedings, but they should not be alarmed.
Every state has its own variation of a legal concept known as guardianship or conservatorship. In California, where Spears lives, the state uses the term conservatorship for a legal relationship in which one party has control over the finances of an adult. For instance, an adult in California might seek to establish a conservatorship to protect the finances of an elderly parent who has become unable to control their own affairs. Generally speaking, this type of relationship is known as a “guardianship” under Texas law.
Under Texas law, the term “conservatorship” applies to the rights and responsibilities parents have toward their children. Conservatorship is the legal relationship commonly known as child custody when there is a court order.
How it works
In the absence of a court order, the law assumes parents have all the rights of custody of their children. Either parent can live with the child, take the child on trips, make decisions about their upbringing and so on. However, if the parents have a court order, the law refers to their parental rights and responsibilities as conservatorship. A “conservator” is a person with court-ordered custody of a child.
Generally, there are three types of conservators: joint managing conservators, sole managing conservators and possessory conservators. Texas courts presume that it is in the child’s best interest to have both parents as joint managing conservators. The exact terms of of a joint conservatorship can vary, but in most cases one parent is the primary custodial parent and both parents have rights to visitation with their child and to make decisions about the child’s upbringing.
The terminology in divorce and child custody law can be confusing. It can be helpful for parents to learn about their rights and legal options from a knowledgeable and experienced family law attorney.