When going through a divorce or a suit affecting the parent-child relationship (“SAPCR”), it’s easy to get confused on all of the legal terminologies and what they mean in regards to child custody and support.
There are three main areas that must be addressed when children are involved:
Most parents understand the third area pertains to issues relating to child support and medical support. The terms “Conservatorship” and “Possession and Access” pertain to all other child-related issues in a divorce or SAPCR.
Conservatorship relates to the rights, duties, and obligations of parents (or “conservators”) when it comes to their children. This includes medical and psychological decisions, educational decisions, geographic restrictions to the residence of the child, and other considerations.
The possession and access schedule, on the other hand, relates to the arrangement set-up between the parties, or ordered by the court, detailing when each conservator exercises possession of the children. The possession schedule may be the Standard Possession Order found in the Texas Family Code, or it may be tailored to address the unique circumstances of the parties. The schedule will also address the particulars regarding dropping off and picking up the children. In all cases, the possession schedule will account for holidays, birthdays, summer vacations.
The most hotly contested issue regarding children in a divorce or SAPCR is which parent will be designated as “primary.” You hear phrases like “primary custody” or “full custody” thrown around quite a bit by parties in a custody dispute. But what does primary custody actually mean?
More often than not, primary custody specifically relates to which party will have the exclusive right to designate the primary residence of the child. Many times, the residence will be restricted geographically within a particular county or contiguous counties. Traditionally the term “primary custody” is viewed as that party having the child the majority of the time. However, as discussed above, possession and access may follow or deviate from the Standard Possession Order. For instance, parties may agree to a week-on-week-off schedule or some other arrangement. In every case, however, a primary custodial parent will be designated.
When facing a child custody dispute, it is beneficial to have a basic understanding of the terminology so you will be better suited to communicate to your attorney what you want. If a divorce involving children is in your future, contact the Hardy Law Group to discuss your situation.