Texas Law on Custody and Child's Special Education: Who Makes Decisions?

Understanding Texas Law on Custody and Decision-Making for a Child's Special Education

In the state of Texas, the determination of who has the authority to make decisions about a child's special education can be complex, especially when parents are divorced or separated. This article will delve into the intricacies of Texas law regarding custody arrangements and the rights of parents to make educational decisions for their children who require special education services.

Custody Arrangements and Educational Rights in Texas

Texas law recognizes several types of custody arrangements, commonly referred to as conservatorships. These include sole managing conservatorship, joint managing conservatorship, and possessory conservatorship. Each type dictates different levels of parental responsibility and decision-making authority.

The specifics of these arrangements are typically outlined in a court order following a custody case. It is crucial for both parents to understand their legal rights and responsibilities as outlined in this order.

Special Education Considerations

When it comes to a child requiring special education services, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) comes into play. IDEA is a federal law that ensures students with disabilities are provided with Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) that is tailored to their individual needs. Under IDEA, parents are recognized as vital participants in their child's education planning process.

In Texas, if parents have joint managing conservatorship, they must collaborate to make decisions about their child's Individualized Education Program (IEP). An IEP outlines a child's learning objectives and the services that will be provided to meet those objectives. If parents disagree about the IEP, they may need to return to court for a judge to decide unless their existing custody agreement specifies how such disputes are to be resolved.

Case Law Examples

An illustrative case is Lehr v. Robertson, where the U.S. Supreme Court held that a biological father who had not legally established a relationship with his child did not have a say in adoption proceedings—a principle that can extend to decision-making rights in education. While not a Texas case, it reflects general principles regarding parental rights that can influence state law interpretations.


In conclusion, Texas law on custody and a child's special education requires navigating through both state statutes and federal mandates like IDEA. Parents should pay close attention to their conservatorship designations and court orders defining their educational decision-making authority. When disputes arise, it may be necessary for them to seek legal assistance or mediation to ensure their child's educational needs are met appropriately.