At Barbosa Family Law, P. C., our attorneys get a very common request from clients – I want “full custody” of my child.   Usually, clients do not understand the way Texas family courts address the issue of custody or conservatorship.   Most cases which involve a child have a common ruling when it involves the custody of a child.   In most situations,  or we should say the majority of the cases,  the family courts will order a “joint managing conservatorship”.

The Texas family courts can not discriminate on the custody ruling whether based on sex or marital status.   The standard by which family courts base their decisions regarding conservatorship of a child is always the “best interest of the child”.

If the case before the court involves a history of domestic violence or sexual abuse, the courts will generally not award a joint managing conservatorship.   In determining whether to appoint a party as a “sole managing conservator” or “joint managing conservator”, the court will consider evidence of the intentional use of abusive physical force, or evidence of sexual abuse , by a party directed at the other party, a parent of the child, or any person younger than 18 years of age.   The courts will not appoint parties as joint managing conservators if credible evidence is presented of a history or pattern of past or present child neglect, or physical or sexual abuse by on parent.

So, when clients ask that they be appointed the parent with full custody, we will advise them that the court will probably appoint them as joint managing conservators meaning that both parties will generally shall the rights and duties of a person appointed as a conservator of a child.   However, courts will also designate one of the parties as the person who will have the exclusive right to establish the child’s primary domicile within a geographic area.   The person awarded such a right will typically be the party with the primary custody of the child.

Joint conservatorship does not mean that the parties will share the possession of the child equally or in a 50/50 possession schedule. It does mean that most rights and duties are shared either independently or by agreement with the other conservator.   Together with the award of the exclusive right to establish the child’s primary domicile is the exclusive right of a party to receive child support and medical support from the other party.   Generally that means that the party will have the ‘full custody’ of the child.

If you are contemplating seeking primary custody of a child or children in either a divorce proceeding or a case to establish the parental rights of a party, always consider the fact that courts will always render a ruling that is the child’s best interest regardless of  the competing claims for “full custody” in front of the court.