How does child custody work when unmarried parents separate?

When parents separate, whether married or not, the best interest of the children will always be the most important factor when deciding on custody and visitation. Not all splits are amicable, which can make it difficult to come to an agreement. If an agreement cannot be reached between both parents, it will become the courts responsibility to decide.

The state of Texas refers to child custody as “conservatorship,” and offers two types:

Sole managing conservatorship (SMC).

SMC means one parent has the legal right to make certain decisions on behalf of the children. Those rights include:
• Choosing the primary residence
• Making healthcare decisions
• Consenting to medical treatment
• Being their “in case of emergency” contact
• Attending school activities
• Receiving child support
• Making decisions about education

Joint managing conservatorship (JMC).

JMC means both parents share the right to make decisions on behalf of the children. In this case, a judge will assign specific responsibilities to each parent. JMC does not mean both parents share equal custody. That decision will be made in a separate visitation schedule known as a standard possession order (SPO).

How does visitation work and what is a standard possession order?

The state of Texas refers to visitation as a standard possession order (SPO). The SPO is a set schedule that determines each parent’s time with their children.

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