difference between joint and sole managing conservatorship in Texas

There is a lot of confusion regarding the difference between joint and sole managing conservatorship in Texas and what exactly they both mean.  Let’s begin with the meaning.

Sole managing and joint managing conservators does not mean sole custody or joint custody.  Conservatorship in Texas is simply a designation of who has the right to make certain decisions regarding a child and who has what duties.  The Texas Family Code specifically lists the rights of a conservator.  In a joint managing conservatorship these rights are split between the parties either as the parties agree or as the judge decides.   Typically, in a standard order, the rights are split independently which means that each party maintains all these rights.

A person with “sole managing conservatorship” has the rights and duties as set out in section 153.132 of the Texas Family Code.  This person exercises these rights exclusively and does not share them with the other parent.  The other parent is termed the “possessory conservator” and has limited rights (see section 153.192 of the Texas Family Code).

So how do you know who has “custody”?  The person who has custody as most people know it is the person who has the exclusive right to designate the primary residence of the child.  In a joint managing conservatorship that person is called the “primary” joint managing conservator.  In a sole managing conservatorship the sole managing conservator has this right exclusively.

So as you can see, you can be a joint managing conservator but not have the right to determine the residence of the child (or custody as most people refer to it).

How is it determined which type of conservator a parent is named?  In Texas it is presumed that the parents will be appointed joint managing conservators of a child.  This means that in most cases the parents will be named joint managing conservators and the rights and duties set out above will be split.  This rule can be found in section 153.131 of the Texas Family Code.  That is in most cases. Although it is presumed that the parents will be joint conservators, the presumption can be attacked with the proper facts.  If the facts show that the child’s emotional or physical health would be significantly impaired by appointing the parents joint conservators, then the court will appoint a sole managing conservator.

The facts necessary to attack the presumption are different for each case and each judge.  There is no easy answer to what facts are necessary.

Once conservatorship is decided, who makes what decisions, the next step is determining what possession schedule each party will have.  I have discussed standard visitations in many different places on this blog.

I hope this sheds some light on the issue of conservatorship vs. custody.

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73 Responses to difference between joint and sole managing conservatorship in Texas

  1. Confused May 10, 2013 at 5:41 am #

    Question: Neither my partner nor the wife have custody of their two girls, they have been separated for over 3 years and she cannot have the girls without supervision for drug abuse related issues. Their nana has sole managingconservator rights, currently working on the divorce papers but going through the order in suit affecting the parent-child relationship I noticed she is not obligated to child support or health insurance or any financial support at all, I was told that the judge had not ordered any because she was going to be given time to get back on her feet, go to rehab and get a job and a home?! Can this be possible?! The lawyer handling the case was hired by he’s ex mother in law and money is not the issue, I know he has resposabilities with the girls but I do want to know if it was manipulated to benefit the mother and help her keep being irresponsible

  2. Victor May 10, 2013 at 7:20 am #

    My wife and I have full court ordered sole conservatorship of our grandchildren and, both their parents are in prison; do we have a legal right to adopt the childen without parent’s consent? (or, what is our legal avenue). We are aging grandparents and are concerned they will not be entitled to social security suvivor’s benefits upon our passing.

  3. Auntie May 10, 2013 at 2:22 pm #

    My brother has recently gotten a mediation agreement granting joint custody. He plans to go for full custody, but understands that will be hard because although there are plenty of witnesses to her violent behavior toward adults, negligence to child, and drunken escapades – she has only been charged with one DUI.

    The mother of his child has recently gotten a DUI & is waiting for court, she is squatting with random people she knows and people she picks up at bars – so she’s homeless, and my brother fears for his son’s safety. If she shows up at my brother’s apartment, admits she doesn’t have any where to live, and we know she does not have the proper car insurance/valid driver’s license, can he insist that she leave the boy with him? She will likely get violent, so he’ll have to call the police – will they leave the boy with him or will they let her take the boy with her if they share custody?

    Thank you!

  4. Chris Schmiedeke May 21, 2013 at 12:06 pm #

    That all depends on what they agreed to at mediation.

  5. Taff June 19, 2013 at 11:08 pm #


    I have 6 children with my ex wife. The first 3 were raised with joint conservatorship and they each have gone on to create their own success story. For the younger three, my ex-wife is trying to take sole conservatorship in case she wants to move out of state “one-day”. There has been no history or concrete reason why the judge should grant her wish, other than I do have some financial issues. However, I have always provided whatever my children have needed. Does she have a case? What points can I say to better defend my position? I don’t have an issue with her moving out of state, but I refuse to let her take away my rights as a parent. Also my oldest daughter is well versed in matters of civil law. Can she attend the court proceedings, testify for me, or even possibly represent me?

  6. Ashley July 13, 2013 at 6:33 am #

    The father of my hold was given parent possesory and limited supervised visitation and also order to take two classes within 60 days of court and hasn’t and ordered to pay child support for the last two years he has been absent no idea at all where he is can I take all his rights away

  7. Judy Carriker July 20, 2013 at 6:45 am #

    Grandparents – I share joint managing conservatorship with the other grandparent, but the child lives with me as the primary residence. The Grandfather moved and did not tell me, he is suppose to send me a registered letter with an address change. I found out he had been evicted from his apt once again. I asked for an address and he has refused to give me one. I have sent a registered letter to his old address demanding and address change and also hoping I will receive a forwarding address. Seeing he refuses to furnish me with an address, I have no other choice than to stop visitation. So now I find out the reason he has refused to give me the address change is because he has moved to Louisiana. If I cannot move out of my county on court papers why can he? He has moved into government housing with his 15 yr old grand daughter in Louisiana. He has been bringing our grandson across stateline without telling me. Now he has filed contempt of court on me when he has been in contempt the day he moved out of his apt without giving me an address. I still have not received a registered/certified letter with an address as the court papers indicate as of today. But I have received lots of threatening phone calls from this man. Can he legally make this move? My greatest fear is, he will file a change of custody in Louisiana. Dont say it cant happen, had to learn the hard way through an Illinois court. this is the United States but not one state in this glorious union recognizes another states law, especially family law.

  8. David September 6, 2013 at 3:40 pm #

    I have a 5 month old daughter with my ex girlfriend. Im wanting to know if getting joint managing conservator ship would prevent her from leaving the state or doing anything without my permission. I have a federal record of sex offender. It was over 15 years ago and for two years now i haven’t had to register. One of those bad things happen to good people situations. She has drug charges on her background recent and old. Cps is involved at the moment and issued conciling for us. it went well for three weeks then one day she kicked me out and had another man there that evening. What actions can i take to make sure my daughter gets the best she needs and not be in a confusing situation. They already have plans of getting married and moving to another state… If that happens I would not have the money to keep going back and forth just to see her. What can i do?

  9. james October 22, 2013 at 10:14 pm #

    I went for a temporary hearing and the judge ordered joint managing con and she gets supervised visits .. she had a cps case in 2010 and I filed for an ex parte and TRO when the abuse and drugs started again the end of last year I got temp sole managing con and we were sent to mediation( where she was ordered by the court to take drug test which she still hasn’t) I agreed to supervised visits BUT she was never on time , came to one high and broke all the rules and the supervisor did nothing come to find out she and the supervisor got “involved” she has not seen the child in 6 months , we went back to court for the temp hearing because mediation did NOT work The judge did not let me speak to tell her that by law she CANT have joint because of the abuse .. So do I have to wait till final hearing for her to hear that or what?? She gets to chose the supervisor and she “THINKS” she gets to see him at the persons house which will NOT be the case it will be in a public place .. So when can I change it back to sole managing con????

  10. Ruby January 17, 2014 at 8:00 pm #

    What happens to child if fAther goes to jail. And we are under joint managing conservator and he is primary. Does he come to me?

  11. Chris Schmiedeke February 3, 2014 at 1:16 pm #


  12. Tiffani January 18, 2016 at 11:26 am #

    About 2 years ago I signed a Affidavit of relinquishment of possessory conservatorship to allow my daughter to live in another state with my brother. Her father and my parents, who had custody, also signed relinquishment of managing conservatorship. My daughter, 14, is now back living with me in Texas and I am just trying to figure out what papers to file in court to get her back legally, as my brother is a Marine and the Marines require papers to show he is no longer responsible for her financially. I will be doing this on my own as I can not afford a lawyer.

  13. Patti January 18, 2016 at 4:39 pm #

    Hi. We are permanent managing conservators for our niece. Are we allowed to take her out of the country this summer for vacation? Some have told us no, some yes. We have four blood sons and her and we would love to bring her as well as she is part of our family now. She has been for 5 years. If so, will it be easy enough to get her passport?

  14. Chris Schmiedeke January 19, 2016 at 8:56 am #

    Your order will control what you are and are not allowed to do. Read your order. If there is no restriction, and you are not traveling during someone else’s possession time, you should be fine. The passport office is another story. I would check with them quickly as it may take some time to get a passport.

    Good luck.

  15. Robert April 12, 2016 at 9:15 am #

    At one time I found on your blog a copy of a document that when the child turned 15 they could request to only have to spend a few hours with the other parent. I am looking to see what this document was called so that I can read it and then follow up with my attorney.

  16. Sereth June 16, 2016 at 3:34 pm #

    The judge told my lawyer that I have sole managing conservatorship and he never explain to me what that mean. This a CPS case in Texas please help me understand what’s happening with my case.

  17. Chris Schmiedeke June 23, 2016 at 3:37 pm #

    You will need to speak with your lawyer about what is going on with your case.

  18. Annette September 29, 2016 at 1:59 am #

    Ok my ex and myself have a joint conservativorship we both have all the same exact rights with 2 exceptions. She gets to say where he lives, however she may not move out of the county or the surrounding counties if she does she will be in contempt. Also I have to agree to her move, if I don’t she can not move.
    Wondering how hard it would be to get second parent adoption with out living in the same house as my child. Also wondering how old my child has to be to file for him to change his living to me house. He always tells me he wants to live with me. He’s 8.

  19. Amanda November 22, 2016 at 10:32 am #

    Hello my mom has sole managing consenators and I have joint possessory consenators and still have my rights what paper do I fill out to get my kids back with me

  20. Manda July 29, 2018 at 12:38 am #

    If a parent has sole custody of a child and no longer communicates with the child ( they no longer live in the same household , and haven’t had any form of communication for months ) and the child went to go live with the non custodial parent what legal actions can they take to ensure that if the child and parent who has sole custody have a fall out the parent won’t want the child to move back or take other parent to court and flip the tables .

  21. Kat October 20, 2018 at 4:24 pm #

    I have a question… please help me understand.
    I have joint conservatorship with the paternal grandmother… if she ends up passing away will my children come back to me?


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