Texas Conservatorship vs. Guardianship: What's the Difference?

Understanding Texas Conservatorship

In the state of Texas, conservatorship refers to the legal responsibilities and rights that a person, known as a conservator, holds regarding a child's welfare. This term is specific to the context of family law, particularly in cases of divorce or when parents are otherwise unable to fulfill their parental duties. Conservatorship encompasses decisions about the child's education, medical care, and moral and religious upbringing.

There are two types of conservatorship in Texas: Joint Managing Conservatorship (JMC) and Sole Managing Conservatorship (SMC). JMC is the presumption in Texas law, favoring shared parental rights and duties whenever possible. In contrast, SMC applies when one parent is granted exclusive rights over certain decisions for the child, often due to the other parent being deemed unfit due to reasons such as abuse, neglect, or absence.

Exploring Texas Guardianship

Guardianship in Texas is a legal process designed to safeguard individuals who are incapacitated due to age, disability, or other conditions that impair their ability to make decisions for themselves. The person under a guardianship is referred to as a ward. A guardian can be appointed over the person (to make decisions regarding the ward's physical well-being), over the estate (to manage the ward's financial affairs), or both.

The guardianship process involves a court determining that an individual lacks capacity and appointing a suitable guardian. The guardian's powers will be tailored by the court based on the needs and limitations of the ward. Guardianship cases often involve elderly individuals with dementia or young adults with severe disabilities.

Key Differences Between Conservatorship and Guardianship

An example highlighting these differences is the case of Britney Spears' conservatorship in California—a high-profile situation that brought attention to such legal arrangements. Although this occurred outside Texas and involved an adult rather than a minor, it exemplifies how conservatorship can control personal and financial decisions when an individual is deemed unable to do so themselves.


Navigating Texas conservatorship and guardianship laws can be complex. It is essential for those involved to understand their rights and responsibilities under each arrangement. Whether you're seeking to become a conservator or guardian or are subject to such legal authority, consulting with an experienced attorney familiar with Texas family and probate law will help ensure protection and compliance with all legal requirements.