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rights and responsibilities of a custodial parent

Custodial Parent in Texas: Rights and Responsibilities

In Texas, the role of a custodial parent carries significant responsibilities and rights. Whether you’re going through a divorce, separation, or are already a custodial parent, understanding the legal framework and practical implications of this role is crucial. This comprehensive guide aims to provide clarity on what it means to be a custodial parent in Texas.

What is a Custodial Parent in Texas?

In Texas family law, a custodial parent is typically the parent who has the right to determine the primary residence of the child. This parent is often referred to as the “primary conservator” or the parent with “primary custody.” However, it’s important to note that Texas law favors the term “conservatorship” over “custody.”

Understanding Conservatorship in Texas

Types of Conservatorship

  1. Joint Managing Conservatorship (JMC): This is the most common arrangement in Texas. Both parents share parental rights and duties, but one parent (the custodial parent) usually has the exclusive right to determine the child’s primary residence.
  2. Sole Managing Conservatorship (SMC): In Solo Managing Conservatorship, which is the less common arrangement, one parent has exclusive rights to make major decisions for the child. This is typically ordered when there are concerns about the other parent’s ability to make sound decisions for the child’s welfare.

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Rights and Duties of Conservators

Regardless of the type of conservatorship, both parents typically retain certain rights and duties, including:

  • The right to receive information about the child’s health, education, and welfare
  • The right to consult with the other parent before making decisions concerning the child’s health, education, and welfare
  • The right to access medical, dental, psychological, and educational records
  • The duty to inform the other parent of significant information concerning the child’s health, education, and welfare

Specific Rights and Responsibilities of a Custodial Parent in Texas

As a custodial parent in Texas, you have several key rights and responsibilities:

  1. Determining Primary Residence: You have the right to decide where the child will primarily live, often within a specific geographic area.
  2. Receiving Child Support: You’re typically entitled to receive child support payments from the non-custodial parent.
  3. Making Educational Decisions: You often have the right to make decisions about the child’s education, including choice of schools.
  4. Medical Decisions: You usually have the right to consent to medical, dental, and surgical treatment involving invasive procedures, as well as psychiatric and psychological treatment.
  5. Managing Finances: You may have the right to manage the child’s estate if it’s created by the parent or the parent’s family.
  6. Representing the Child Legally: You have the right to represent the child in legal actions and make other legal decisions.
  7. Consenting to Marriage and Enlistment: You have the right to consent to the child’s marriage or enlistment in the armed forces.

Possession and Access (Visitation)

While you’re the custodial parent, the non-custodial parent typically has rights to possession and access, often governed by a Standard Possession Order (SPO) or an Expanded Standard Possession Order (ESPO).

Standard Possession Order (SPO)

The Standard Possession Order typically provides the non-custodial parent with:

  • 1st, 3rd, and 5th weekends of each month
  • Thursday evenings during the school year
  • Alternating holidays
  • Extended time during summer vacations

Expanded Standard Possession Order (ESPO)

The ESPO provides additional time, including:

  • Longer weekend visits (from school dismissal on Friday to Monday morning)
  • Longer Thursday visits (overnight)

Modifying Custody Arrangements

Circumstances may change, necessitating modifications to the custody arrangement. In Texas, you can request a modification if:

  1. There has been a material and substantial change in circumstances
  2. The current order has become unworkable or inappropriate
  3. The child is at least 12 and expresses a preference to the judge
  4. The custodial parent has voluntarily relinquished primary care and possession for at least six months

Relocation Considerations

As a custodial parent, if you wish to relocate with your child, you must consider:

  1. Any geographic restrictions in your court order;
  2. The potential need to modify the existing order; and
  3. The non-custodial parent’s right to object to the move.

Child Support for Custodial Parents

As a custodial parent, you’re typically entitled to receive child support. In Texas, child support is calculated based on the non-custodial parent’s income and the number of children. The court may also consider:

  • The child’s needs;
  • Each parent’s ability to contribute to the child’s support; and
  • Any special or extraordinary expenses.

Healthcare and Insurance

As a custodial parent, you’re often responsible for making healthcare decisions. However, the court typically orders one parent to provide health insurance for the child. You may be responsible for managing healthcare appointments and ensuring the child receives necessary medical care.

Education Rights and Responsibilities

Your rights and responsibilities regarding your child’s education may include:

  1. Choosing the school your child attends;
  2. Accessing educational records;
  3. Attending school activities; and
  4. Making decisions about special education services if needed.

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Dealing with Violations of Court Orders

If the non-custodial parent violates the custody order or fails to pay child support, you have legal recourse. Options may include:

  1. Filing for enforcement of the order
  2. Requesting wage garnishment for unpaid child support
  3. Seeking modification of the existing order

Understanding Texas Family Code Sections 153.073 and 153.074

Two important sections of the Texas Family Code that custodial parents should be aware of are 153.073 and 153.074. These sections outline the rights and duties of both custodial and non-custodial parents.

Rights of Parents at All Times: Texas Family Code § 153.073

This section outlines the rights that both parents have at all times, regardless of whether they are custodial or non-custodial parents. These rights include:

  • Right to receive information about the child’s health, education, and welfare
  • Right to access medical, dental, psychological, and educational records
  • Right to consult with the child’s physician, dentist, or psychologist
  • Right to consult with school officials concerning the child’s welfare and educational status
  • Right to attend school activities
  • Right to be designated on official records as a person to be notified in case of emergency
  • Right to consent to medical, dental, and surgical treatment during an emergency
  • Right to manage the child’s estate if created by the parent or the parent’s family

As a custodial parent, you must respect the rights of the non-custodial parent, keeping them informed about significant matters concerning the child and allowing them access to important information and events in the child’s life.

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Rights and Duties During Period of Possession: Texas Family Code § 153.074

This section specifies the rights and duties that a parent has during their period of possession of the child. For a custodial parent, these rights are in effect most of the time, but they also apply to the non-custodial parent during their periods of possession:

  • Duty of care, control, protection, and reasonable discipline of the child
  • Duty to support the child, including providing food, clothing, and shelter
  • Right to consent to medical and dental care not involving an invasive procedure
  • Right to direct the moral and religious training of the child

Implications for Custodial Parents

Understanding these sections is crucial for custodial parents because:

  1. Shared Responsibility: Even as the custodial parent, you must recognize that the other parent has ongoing rights and responsibilities towards the child.
  2. Communication: You’re obligated to keep the other parent informed about significant matters in the child’s life.
  3. Cooperation: You need to cooperate with the other parent in allowing them to exercise their rights.
  4. Respecting Boundaries: During the non-custodial parent’s possession time, you should respect their right to make day-to-day decisions for the child.
  5. Legal Compliance: Failing to adhere to these statutory rights could potentially lead to legal consequences or modifications to the custody arrangement.


Being a custodial parent in Texas comes with significant rights and responsibilities. It’s crucial to understand your role and the legal framework surrounding it. While this guide provides a comprehensive overview, each family’s situation is unique. For personalized legal advice tailored to your specific circumstances, it’s advisable to consult with a qualified family law attorney.

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At Varghese Summersett, we are committed to protecting the rights of custodial parents. Our experienced attorneys serve clients throughout the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex, including Dallas, Fort Worth, Southlake, Arlington and surrounding areas. Contact us today at 817-203-2220 for expert guidance on your rights and responsibilities as a custodial parent in Texas.

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