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Why joint managing conservatorship is so critical in divorce

You and your ex are working your way toward a relatively peaceful divorce. You have two kids, you're not angry with one another, but you realized after 10 years of marriage that it wasn't working. You weren't getting what you needed, and you've decided you'd be better off on your own.

The first thing you should know is that Texas law typically assumes both you and your ex will get access to the kids. This is known as joint managing conservatorship, or JMC, as opposed to sole managing conservatorship (SMC).

The distinction is everything. It defines your life moving forward. It defines your rights and your ability to interact with your kids.

Assets are important. Division of property is important. But nothing is as important to you as your kids. If that's how you feel, remember that JMC gives you the following abilities:

1. You get access to all of the child's critical information.

This could include access to school records, health records, dental records, psychological records and doctors' notes. You have a right to know how your children are doing, even when they aren't physically living with you.

2. You can talk to school officials.

You can sit down and have a discussion about your children, and you'll get answers. You're there for parent-teacher conferences. You have a say in the children's education and can make decisions about which school they attend.

3. You can talk to medical professionals.

If your children are in the hospital, you get instant access. You can ask doctors for opinions and reports. You can see lab work and test results.

4. You can make medical decisions.

Does one of your children need surgery? You can sign off on it. You can pick what medical treatments doctors use, what medications they administer, and all the rest. If there is an emergency, you can make the call so doctors know how to proceed.

Parents who remain married naturally have the right to make these decisions, talk to professionals, and get all of the records and information that they need. One trap that parents sometimes fall into when heading toward an amicable split is to assume that the other parent would never deny them the same access, no matter how conservatorship gets ruled on by the court. Even after the divorce, they assume nothing will change.

Don't make assumptions. It's terrific that you are both getting along, and, in a perfect world, you'd both stay involved and you'd focus on the children's best interests.

However, the difference between JMC and SMC is so crucial because it sets up the legal basis for access to your kids. Your spouse must adhere to this, even if your feelings toward each other change in the future -- after you remarry, for instance. Be sure you know how this process works so that you're legally protected.

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