In Texas, the word conservatorship refers to custody and parental rights. Parents can either be joint managing conservators or one parent may be designated the sole managing conservator. The parent commonly thought of as the custodial parent has the right to designate the primary residence of the child. The parent that has visitation is referred to as the possessory conservator.
While a court order may state that the parties are joint managing conservators and imply that many of the parental rights are shared by the parents, the order may assign so many rights to one particular parent that the order is in effect an order that designates a sole managing conservator in all but name. Furthermore, the rights of conservatorship may be apportioned among the parents in various ways, including being subject to the input of the non-exercising parent despite being award to the other parent. Therefore, the best way to understand the specifics of any proposed court order or settlement agreement is to carefully review the assignment of these rights.
In the vast majority of orders, parents can agree to deviate from the order. This provides parents with the flexibility to trade visitation weekends and otherwise deviate from the visitation order. However, such agreements depend on the ability of the parties to find common ground. Therefore, a good order regarding conservatorship should provide a functioning framework for parents during times of discord, and hopefully separated parents will eventually learn to co-parent and cooperate despite past discord and their separation.