Sharing Decision-Making Responsibilities
The law in Texas encourages both parents to have meaningful relationships with their children. To work toward that goal, the Texas legislature has created a concept known as “Joint Managing Conservatorship,” abbreviated as “JMC.” Joint managing conservatorship usually means that both parents have similar rights to make decisions concerning their children and duties to assure the children’s protection and safety.
Although joint managing conservatorship is the preferred and most common arrangement in Texas, it is not the only arrangement. If one parent is in prison or has a history of violence or drug abuse, the other parent may be designated as the “Sole Managing Conservator,” meaning that he or she holds all the rights listed below and holds them exclusively.
Rights and Duties
The rights and duties that Texas law recognizes include:
- the right to receive information concerning the health, education, and welfare of the children;
- the right to confer before making a decision concerning the health, education, and welfare of the children;
- the right of access to medical, dental, psychological, and educational records of the children;
- the right to consult with a physician, dentist, or psychologist of the children;
- the right to consult with school officials concerning the children’s welfare and educational status, including school activities;
- the right to attend school activities;
- the right to be designated as an emergency contact on the children’s records;
- the right to consent to medical, dental, and surgical treatment during an emergency;
- the right to manage the estates of the children;
- the right to consent to medical and dental care not involving an invasive procedure;
- the right to direct the moral and religious training of the children;
- the right to consent to medical, dental, and surgical treatment involving invasive procedures;
- the right to consent to psychiatric and psychological treatment of the children;
- the right to receive child support;
- the right to designate the primary residence of the children;
- the right to represent the children in legal action;
- the right to consent to marriage and to enlistment in the armed forces of the United States;
- the right to make decisions concerning the children’s education;
- the right to the services and earnings of the children;
- the right to act as an agent of the children in relation to the children’s estates if the children’s action is required by a state, the United States, or a foreign government; and
These rights can be either exclusive, independent, or joint.
- Exclusive: You can exercise the right without conferring with the other parent and do not need the other parent’s consent. The other parent cannot exercise this right at all. The rights to receive child support (if any) and the right to designate the primary residence of the children (if given) are always exclusive.
- Independent: Either you or the other parent can exercise the right without conferring with each other and neither of you needs the other’s consent. The rights to receive information about the children, consult with physicians and teachers, and direct the moral and religious training of the children are almost always independent.
- Joint: A joint right is one that you can exercise subject to the consent of the other parent. The right to consent to marriage or enlistment in the armed services is almost always a joint right.
With rights, come duties. The duties recognized by the Texas Family Code are:
- the duty to inform the other parent of significant health or educational issues concerning the children;
- the duty to inform the other parent if you begin to live with a registered sex offender;
- the duty of care, control, protection, and reasonable discipline of the children;
- the duty to support the children, including providing the children with clothing, food, shelter, and medical and dental care not involving an invasive procedure;
- the duty to provide medical support for the children (health insurance);
- the duty to notify the other parent of changes of address or employment, if you are ordered to pay child support.
In most cases, the final court order must include a limitation on where the children can reside. It can be very broad, e.g. “Within the State of Texas”, or narrow, e.g. “Plano Independent School District.” If the parents can agree on a geographic restriction on the primary residence of the children, neither parent has to be designated as the conservator having the exclusive right to designate the primary residence of the children. If the parties cannot agree, the just will impose a geogrpahic restriction and designate one of the parents as having the exclusive right to designate the primary residence of the children.