TX Conservatorship Orders: Types, Modifying, Enforcing

When a court rules on what someone must or must not do, it issues the details in the form of a court order. Below, see five types of orders the court may utilize in a case involving child conservatorship, possession and access.

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Standing orders

Standing orders are rules that automatically apply to parties in certain types of cases. They begin immediately when a case is opened and stay in effect until a judge changes them or your case comes to a close.

More than 75 Texas counties have standing orders for family law cases. For example, Travis County's standing order prevents either party in a divorce case or a suit affecting the parent-child relationship from taking the child out of state or withdrawing the child from school. The order also prohibits one party from threatening the other, and more.

If your county uses a standing order, you will need to attach it to your petition when you file your suit.

A standing order is a type of temporary order (details below).

Temporary restraining orders

Another type of temporary order is the temporary restraining order (TRO).

You can request a TRO when there's a high possibility the other parent will do something damaging in the initial days or weeks of your case. A TRO can be issued without first notifying the other parent and without a hearing.

A TRO dictates what a party can and cannot do in the next 14 days (28, if you receive an extension) or until a temporary order hearing — whichever comes first. The order may require a parent to stay away from a child, but will not address conservatorship or child support.

Courts do not issue TROs often, reserving them for emergency situations. You should request one only if you or your child could suffer irreparable harm and your court's standing orders (explained above) don't protect you.

To request a TRO, file a motion when you open your case or as soon as possible thereafter. You must also file a sworn statement explaining why you can't wait for a hearing about temporary orders (details below).

Temporary orders

In custody cases, temporary orders are intended to provide short-term solutions to parenting disputes that can't wait until the end of legal proceedings. They remain in effect until a judge modifies them or issues final orders (details below).

Temporary orders are advisable in most family law cases, lawyers say, because they give the court a way to hold parents accountable throughout the litigation process or settlement process.

Temporary orders cover many of the same topics as final orders, but usually don't include a full parenting plan. Topics they may cover include conservatorship, possession and access, child support and health insurance.

Temporary orders can be decided by a judge or agreed upon by parents (with approval from a judge). If parents agree on temporary orders, these can be entered without a hearing. If you need a judge to decide, file a motion for temporary orders when you open your case. You'll then have a hearing, usually within the next four weeks, where orders will be issued. Temporary orders can also be issued or modified later in the legal process, if necessary.

Attorneys caution that final orders in a case often look very similar to temporary orders issued earlier. Treat your temporary orders hearing as seriously as you would a trial, because it it's likely to impact your case well into the future.

Final orders/decrees

A final order in a child conservatorship and possession case lasts until the child becomes an adult, the parents agree on an alternate parenting plan, or a parent successfully requests a modification from the court.

The order will address any issues you asked the court to decide. It will include a parenting plan that outlines each parent's rights, duties and possession schedule. The final order replaces any temporary orders that were in place, including standing orders.

Final orders can be reached in three ways. Ideally, the parties draw up the terms together, and a judge gives approval to make them a court order. Known as settlement, this is considered the gold standard by courts and parenting experts, as it keeps families in charge of their own lives.

Alternatively, if the other parent never responds to the suit, the parent who filed can finish the case through a default final hearing.

Lastly, a judge or jury can rule based on evidence after a trial. If a parent has reason to contest a decision, they can appeal to a higher court and begin the legal process again.

For divorce cases, final orders come in a document known as a final decree. The decree addresses issues related to the divorce (like division of property), as well as the children (like conservatorship and possession).

Modifying a final order

To modify final orders, one parent should file a suit to modify the parent-child relationship.

If the parents agree on the modification, they can then submit a proposed order to the judge and settle the case.

If they're not in agreement, a judge or jury will decide the case for them. The court process will be similar to the first time the family requested a ruling.

The court will only update your orders if it's in the best interest of your child and at least one of the following is true:

  • The child is 12 or older and wants to switch his or her main residence.
  • The custodial parent (who gets to choose the child's main residence) has relinquished care and possession for at least six months for reasons other than military duty.
  • There's been another major change in the circumstances of someone affected by the orders.

Unless both parties agree, you can't reassign the right to choose the child's main residence until at least a year after receiving final orders. Courts may make an exception for extraordinary circumstances.

Any modifications will be made by the court that issued the initial custody decision, unless the child has moved out of the county and the case meets requirements for a transfer.

If a judge discovers you've filed for modification as a way to harass the other parent, you'll have to pay the other parent's attorney fees.

Sometimes final orders include planned modifications. For example, an estranged parent's possession time may gradually increase as the child becomes comfortable with him or her.

Enforcing orders

If the other parent doesn't follow orders issued by a court, you should gather as much evidence as possible. You can keep detailed records of the violations by using your Custody X Change journal or actual parenting time tracker.

For serious or repeat violations, file a motion to enforce with the court or contact police.

Staying in compliance with orders

When a court issues orders, it's essential you follow them to the letter. If you don't, you can be brought back to court, charged with a crime and more.

But possession orders can be particularly difficult to decipher. When exactly is the Monday immediately following the fifth weekend? What is the day before school resumes after the weekend?

Use Custody X Change to transform your possession order into a calendar you can edit and print, so you'll never have to wonder whether you're staying in compliance.

With the Custody X Change app, you can combine possession orders for the school year, summer break and holidays into one master calendar. Making changes is easy; just click a time block and type in your updates.

Take advantage of our technology so you never have to wonder if you're interpreting the court's order correctly.

Custody X Change is software that creates customizable parenting plans and possession schedules.

Make My Texas Plan Now

Custody X Change is software that creates customizable parenting plans and possession schedules.

Make My Plan

Custody X Change is software that creates customizable parenting plans and possession schedules.

Make My Texas Plan Now

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