Courtesy of the Government of Alberta
People often confuse the terms "guardianship" and "conservatorship,"
which have specific meanings in Texas and don't necessarily match
up with those terms in other states.
"Custody" is actually not a legal term in Texas. Instead, we
refer to conservatorship, which address the rights and duties of a parent
or sometimes non-parent appointed by the court. In a divorce or parentage
case, both parents will typically be named as Joint Managing Conservators
or one will be named as Sole Managing Conservator while the other is named
as Sole Possessory Conservator. Under certain circumstances, an arm of
the state (the Department of Family and Protective Services) can be named
as a conservator of a child, as can a family member. However, parents
have legal priority and, without their agreement, another person would
have to prove very special circumstances to the Court in order to even
begin a suit for conservatorship.
Guardianship in Texas is not a family-law term at all. Guardianship is
covered by the Texas Probate Code, and it addresses people with a legal
incapacity, defined as "(1) a minor; (2) an adult individual who,
because of a physical or mental condition, is substantially unable to
provide, food, clothing, or shelter for himself or herself, to care for
the individual's own physical health, or to manage the individuals'
own financial affairs; or (3) a person who must have a guardian appointed
to receive funds due the person from any governmental source" (Tx.
Probate Code Sec. 3 (p)).
Unless both parents are deceased, legal matters concerning a child will
be dealt with under the Family Code as conservatorship rather than under
the Probate Code as a guardianship. If a family member or friend is seeking
some parental rights, such as the ability to establish health insurance
for the child, that would probably fall under conservatorship, not guardianship.