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What’s the Difference Between a Sole Managing and Joint Managing Conservator?

Conservatorship pertains to the physical and legal aspects of the custody over the children when the parents are not married anymore or the parties have never been married to begin with. The word “custody” is not really a term recognized by the laws of Texas. It is considered to be the loose term for conservatorship. The person assigned by the court to take custody or conservatorship of the children is called the conservator. There are three kinds of conservator –– Joint Managing Conservators, Sole Managing Conservator, and Possessory Conservator. In this article, the differences between the first two types of conservators will be tackled. The last type is related to the Sole Managing Conservator which will be discussed under such subtopic.

Joint Managing Conservators

An order under this type of conservatorship means that both the parents take part in the decision-making with regard to most issues. This does not entail that the child’s time should be divided between the parents in an equal manner. Usually, in this type of conservator order, one of the parents, or otherwise known as the custodial parent, has the exclusive right to decide the residence of the child which will be within a specific geographic area. The child usually lives with the custodial parent. The other parent who has no right in deciding where the child lives is called the non-custodial parent. In some other cases, neither of  the parents has the exclusive right to decide where the child resides. In such situation, the residence of the child will be based on a certain geographic area, for example a school attendance zone or county.

The general rule is that parents are named Join Managing Conservators but the law provided an exception in that the parents should not be named as such a pattern or history of violence or abuse by one of them against the other is present.

Sole Managing Conservator

A Sole Managing Conservator is the one appointed by the court to exercise conservatorship over the children. The Sole Managing Conservator may either be one of the parents or a non-parent (third person). The Sole Managing Conservator exercises the exclusive right in the decision making on matters involving the child or children. There are several reasons why the court might appoint a person, whether it be a parent or non-parent as a Sole Managing Conservator. They include but are not limited to the following:

  1. Child abuse or neglect by the other parent;
  2. Family violence by the other parent;
  3. Absence of the other parent in the child’s life; and
  4. Alcohol or drug abuse by the other parent

In relation to this type of conservator, if the Sole Managing Conservator is one of the parents, the other parent is considered to be a Possessory Conservator. However, if a third person or a non-parent is appointed as the Sole Managing Conservator, both the parents are considered as Possessory Conservators. Both the parents, as possessory conservator, still enjoy the rights afforded to parents over their children but make no such decisions on most matters concerning them.

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Mr. Hutton is a Divorce and Custody Lawyer based out of Round Rock, TX. His background is with child psychology at Arizona State University where he received a B.S. in 2006, and he continued this by working with the Children’s Right’s Clinic at the University of Texas School of Law where he received his J.D. in 2009. Throughout his practice, he has been a strong proponent of utilizing modern technology to improve his practice and the representation of his clients. He currently is the technology chair of CAFA of Travis County and is committed to improving and modernizing the practice of law in Texas. If you have any questions you can contact him at

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