In Texas, there are two types of conservatorship, which most people refer to as "custody"--Sole Managing Conservatorship (where one parent is Sole Managing Conservator and one parent is Possessory Conservator) and Joint Managing Conservatorship (where both parents are Joint Managing Conservators). The vast majority of Texas cases end with both parents being Joint Managing Conservators. That does not mean that the visitation schedule is then 50/50 or that no one is going to pay child support—it means that both parents are found to be capable of acting in the child's best interest. Under the heading of Joint Managing Conservator, the court must determine (or the parties must agree on) which parent will have the right to determine the primary residence of the child. This is what most people refer to as having "primary custody" or "being primary". Usually this determines the child's residence for purposes of determining where the child will attend public school. The parties can agree that neither parent will have the right to determine the child's primary residence and that the child's residence will be restricted to a geographic area instead, but this can only occur by agreement. If the parties end up in the courtroom, the court must give one parent or the other the right to determine the primary residence of the child.

The right to determine the primary residence of the child is almost always subject to a geographic restriction. This means that the "primary parent" must establish the child's residence within a certain area and that parent cannot move the child out of that area without the other parent's agreement, a court order, or the other parent moving out of the area. Generally speaking, the courts want to keep the child living reasonably close to both parents. However, there can be a lot of factors that influence the court's decision or agreements on geographic restrictions—most commonly, presence of extended family in the area (for the purpose of providing support for the parent) and job opportunities for either or both parents in the area. Our firm has litigated a large number of cases in which one parent wants to relocate with the child, both on the side of the parent that wants to relocate and on the side of the parent that wants to fight the proposed relocation.

There are other factors in a conservatorship determination, such as whether one parent will be able to make decisions for the child's education and psychological and psychiatric treatment or whether both parents will have to agree on those decisions.

It is important to note that the decision regarding the child's primary residence and other decisions in the conservatorship arena do not necessarily dictate child support and visitation. It is possible to have one parent designate the primary residence but still have a 50/50 possession-no child support arrangement. It is also possible to have a 50/50 possession situation with full child support still ordered. While these pieces all operate together to some extent, they are also separate determinations based on all of the factors in your case.