Joint Managing Conservator:
What it means
The first substantial portion of a Texas Custody Order is the issue of Conservatorship.
In days gone by – thirty or forty years ago – custody cases typically ended with one parent being named as the Managing Conservator and the other parent being named as Possessory Conservator. The Managing Conservator (“MC”) was the winner, and the Possessory Conservator (“PC”) was the loser. The MC got most of the time with the children and most of the rights, and the PC got very little.
In this day and age, virtually everyone is named as Joint Managing Conservator (“JMC”). See, Texas Family Code § 153.131(b)(“It is a rebuttable presumption that the appointment of the parents of a child as joint managing conservators is in the best interest of the child.”)
Accordingly, the title has become for all practical purposes just that – a title.
The law is clear that being named a Joint Managing Conservator, in and of itself, provides very little with respect to guaranteed rights, duties, or possession. See, e.g., Texas Family Code § 153.138 (JMC “does not impair or limit the authority of the court to order a [JMC] to pay child support…”).
Being named JMC certainly does not mean that the parent is entitled to a 50-50 possession schedule. Texas Family Code § 153.135 (JMC “does not require the award of equal or nearly equal periods of physical possession of and access to the child to each of the joint conservators”). But see, Albrecht v. Albrecht, 974 S.W.2d 262, 265 (Tex. App. San Antonio 1998) (“Equal time between parents is neither recommended nor prohibited.”); In re Marriage of Marris, No. 06-02-00186-CV (Texas. App. – Texarkana 2003, no pet.)(memo op.; 7-15-03)(“although award of equal periods of possession is not required, equal time is clearly authorized”).
Additionally, being named JMC does not mean that you are guaranteed getting an equal say in medical decision, educational decisions, or any other right.
So, does being named a Joint Managing Conservator mean anything? The answer is maybe.
If and when you go back to court for any type of modification, you may start at a disadvantage if you are a Possessory Conservator, instead of a Joint Managing Conservator.
In short, being named JMC may not mean much, but it’s better than not being named JMC.