“Custody” can refer to many things in the context of family law litigation. Primarily, it regards conservatorship and possession/access.
- Conservatorship is the rights or duties of a parent.
- Possession & Access are the question of who sees the child, for how often, and under what circumstances
The majority of custody cases end with Joint Managing Conservatorship, which means that both parents have come to an agreement on the legally important questions: medical, educational and psychological decisions for the child.
Sole Managing Conservatorship is less common, but far from rare. In a Sole Managing Conservatorship, one parent retains sole rights for decision-making while the other parent is a Possessory Conservator who only has the right to access to or possession of the child under the court’s possession order.
What these two categories have in common is that one parent is assigned “primary” custody, which can be defined as the exclusive right to determine the primary residence of the child. Depending on the specifics of the case, the right to determine primary residence may or may not have a geographic limit, usually the counties surrounding the county of origin.
Although it is possible to lift geographic restrictions or relocate the child’s primary residence to out of state, very few county judges will consider the request; cases requesting a change to geographic restrictions usually go to jury trial and tend to become very complex and expensive.