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What is the Difference Between Conservatorship and Custody?


Are you a divorced or separated parent in San Antonio? You may have heard terms like “custody” and “conservatorship” thrown around. What is the difference? In Texas, there is no difference. Our state does not technically use the word “custody” in legal proceedings. Instead, conservatorship is the legal term. Here, our San Antonio child custody lawyer provides a comprehensive overview of the key things to know about the differences between conservatorships and custody in Texas.

Texas Family Law: Conservatorship is a Legal Term that Means “Child Custody”

To start, it is important to clarify that there is no difference between conservatorship and custody. As the Texas State Law Library explains, “the legal word for child custody is conservatorship.” In this context, the term custody refers to both “decision-making authority” and “possessory authority.” In Texas, a parent may be awarded one (or both) of the following types of custody:

  • Managing Conservatorship: A parent who is a managing conservator has decision-making authority over a child. You may also hear this referred to as legal custody.
  • Possessory Conservatorship: A parent who is a possessory conservator has physical possession of the child. You may also hear this referred to as physical custody.

A Court May Award a Joint or Sole Conservatorship to Parents

A conservatorship may be sole or joint. It can be split in multiple ways. For example, it is not uncommon for two divorcing parents in San Antonio to both be granted a joint managing conservatorship. Parents who are joint managing conservators effectively have joint legal custody. They both have decision-making authority. At the same time, one of those parents may be granted a sole possessory conservatorship. That parent would have primary physical custody of the child. The other parent, who also has legal custody, may be granted “access.” In Texas family law cases, the term “access” is similar to how “visitation” is used in other states.

Shared Custody (Joint Conservatorships) are Strongly Favored By Law in Texas

In Texas, the law presumes that some form of joint conservatorship (shared custody) is inherently best for the child. True sole custody—meaning one parent being named both the sole managing conservator and the sole possessory conservator—will only be granted if it is deemed the best option to protect the child’s health, safety, well-being, and development. If you have any specific questions or concerns about asserting your custody rights, an experienced San Antonio family lawyer can review your case and help you determine the best path forward.

Get Help From a Family Law Attorney in San Antonio, Texas

At Hoelscher Gebbia Cepeda, PLLC, our San Antonio family lawyers have extensive experience handling child custody (conservatorship) cases. It is our mission to help parents exercise their rights and find the best solution for their family’s future. If you have any specific questions about conservatorships, please do not hesitate to contact us today. From our San Antonio office, we provide family law representation in Bexar County and throughout South-Central Texas.