Sole Managing Conservator: What Is One in Custody Cases?

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By Divorce & Finance

In the landscape of family law, the concept of sole conservatorship represents a significant decision regarding child custody.

A sole managing conservator is the equivalent of the sole custodian of a child. This arrangement by the court gives a parent or non-parent party exclusive rights and duties in rearing a child.

Sole managing conservator

However, sole managing conservatorship doesn’t mean you have sole “child custody” – it only means you have certain rights regarding child-rearing. This article will discuss the rights and duties of a sole conservator and other types of conservatorships available.

Who Is a Sole Managing Conservator in a Custody Case?

A sole managing conservator in a custody case is a court-appointed parent or party responsible for making decisions about the key matters of a child, including their health, safety and welfare. This person is also responsible for managing the child’s property and making decisions about their education and medical care.

Also referred to as the primary managing conservator or the managing conservator, this person may also have the right to decide about the child’s religion and extracurricular activities. In most cases, the other parent still has the right to visit and communicate with the child, but they do not have the same decision-making power as the managing conservator.

Most people are familiar with the term “custody” when it comes to the rights parents have over their children and may wonder “what is sole managing conservator in Texas?” Under Texas law, custody is referred to as conservatorship, and the common terms used in custody battles are sole/primary managing conservator and joint managing conservators.

– Rights and Duties of a Managing Conservator

Courts bestow certain rights and powers to make decisions only to sole conservators. Generally, this conservator has the right to:

  • Decide the child’s primary (main) residence.
  • Consent to medical, surgical, dental, and other treatments involving invasive procedures.
  • Receive child support on their behalf.
  • Consent to the child’s psychiatric and psychological treatment.
  • Represent the child in legal matters and make decisions with significant legal implications regarding the child.
  • Consent to the child’s marriage if they marry before the age of majority.
  • Consent to the child’s enlistment in the armed forces.
  • Make decisions regarding the child’s education and religious upbringing.
  • Be responsible for the child’s earnings and services.
  • Step in as the child’s estate agent whenever federal or state law requires an action (unless there’s a guardian appointed to look after the estate).

– Factors Considered When Determining Conservatorship

In a custody case, the court considers various factors when deciding on the type of conservatorship that is in the child’s best interests. Here are some of the factors that a court may consider:

  • The child’s relationship with each parent.
  • Each parent’s ability to provide for the child’s physical and emotional needs.
  • Both parents’ ability to communicate and co-parent.
  • History of domestic violence or substance abuse.
  • Any history of sexual abuse or assault.

The court may also consider the child’s wishes if they are old enough to express them. Ultimately, the court’s decision will be based on the case’s specific circumstances and the child’s best interests.

– Reasons For Naming a Managing Conservator

In a custody case, a court may appoint a managing conservator if it believes this arrangement is in the child’s best interests. That could be for various reasons, such as if one parent is deemed unfit to serve as a conservator or if there’s any history of domestic violence or substance abuse in the home of one of the parents.

Reasons for naming a managing conservator

A court may also appoint a managing conservator if one parent resides far away from the child, making it difficult for them to play an active role in the child’s life. Generally, the court shall evaluate the case’s circumstances and make a decision that best fits the child’s best interests.

Are There Other Types of Conservators Besides Sole Managing Conservators?

There are other types of conservators besides sole managing conservators The main types of conservators in custody cases include sole managing conservator, possessory conservator and joint conservators. When awarding conservatorship, the court places the child’s best interest above everything else. 

Texas family code prioritizes children’s regular contact with their parents and will award conservatorship in line with this policy.

– Sole Managing Conservator

A primary managing conservator is a parent or non parent who has been granted the sole authority to make important decisions regarding the child, such as the child’s education, healthcare and religious upbringing.

Managing conservatorship is what would typically be referred to as sole or full custody. As already mentioned, it gives the conservator the exclusive right to make certain decisions regarding the child.

– Possessory Managing Conservator

The parent who isn’t named the managing conservator automatically becomes the possessory conservator. However, if a non-parent is awarded managing conservatorship, both parents are named possessory conservators.

A possessory conservator is granted visitation rights with the child but does not have the authority to make decisions on the child’s behalf. In some cases, a court may appoint both a managing conservator and a possessory conservator, with the former having the primary responsibility for making decisions on behalf of the child.

– Joint Managing Conservatorships

Texas child custody laws provide that parents should be named joint managing conservators in a child custody case. In this type of conservatorship, parents share decision-making authority. That means both parents have the right to make decisions on the child’s behalf.

Joint managing conservatorships

In this type of conservatorship, both parents are typically required to consult with each other and come to an agreement on major decisions. In some cases, the court may give one parent the final say if the parents can’t agree and come up with a parenting plan.

A possession order states what rights each parent has, especially parenting time. While this type of conservatorship is viewed as joint custody, shared custody, or split custody, one parent often has the exclusive rights to decide the child’s main residence.

In Texas, the Standard Possession Order states that if the parents disagree, the non-custodial parent is granted the legal right to possession of the child as provided by the Texas Family Code in cases where parents live within 50 miles of each other.

Who Is a Non-Parent Sole Managing Conservator?

A non-parent sole managing conservator is any party other than the parents, appointed to be the primary managing conservator. It happens if both parents are deemed unfit to be conservators or if extenuating circumstances make it in the child’s best interests to have a non-parent as the primary managing conservator.

In these cases, the court will typically appoint a close relative of the child, such as a grandparent, or may appoint a legal guardian if no suitable relatives are available, in line with the provision of the state’s family law.


The sole managing conservator vs joint managing conservator discussion is important in clarifying each parent’s rights in their child’s life. Here’s a rundown of the main ideas of the discussion:

  • When considering sole managing conservator vs sole custody, a managing conservator doesn’t always mean that a parent has sole custody of a child but often has the exclusive right to make major decisions regarding rearing their child.
  • Joint managing conservatorship is an arrangement where both parents have a say in issues affecting their child.
  • In a possessory conservatorship, a parent has rights, such as visitation rights, but not the final say in most decisions regarding a child.
  • Courts may appoint a non parent sole managing conservator if both parents are deemed unfit for child-rearing.

A sole managing conservator and possessory conservator have specific rights and duties, but the former usually has the final say in most issues regarding the child, as well as receiving child support from the other parent.

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