If you find yourself going through a divorce or separation, you probably have a lot of worries on your mind. Foremost among these is likely the happiness and welfare of any children you have in common with your spouse or partner. If the two of you are unable to agree on the details of how you will care for your children, a parenting plan may help. In this post, we’ll go through what parenting plans are, what they should include, and how to put parenting plans in Texas together.
A parenting plan is a document developed and agreed to by the parents of a minor child and approved by the court. It can also be established by the court itself if the parents cannot agree on the details. The parenting plan covers the relationship between the parents regarding their child, including factors such as the child’s health care, education, and physical, emotional, and social well-being. It must also include a time-sharing schedule for the parents.
Parenting plans have been in use in Texas for many years, but Texas family law attorneys previously used different terminology to refer to these types of agreements. In 2005, the Texas Legislature changed its custody and visitation laws to make parenting plans mandatory. In Texas, the parents are now required to submit a proposed parenting plan to the court, then the finalized parenting plan is issued as an order of the court.
So, if these changes to law apply to you and you are required to put together a parenting plan in Texas, what should your plan include?
According to the Texas Family Code, any proposed parenting plan in Texas must:
- Outline the rights and duties of the parent or person acting as a parent to the child,
- spell out who will have possession of and access to the child at what times, either by the adoption of the Standard Possession Order (an order that determines what amount of time and on which weekdays, weekends, and holidays both the custodial and non-custodial parent will have access to their children) or by amending that order according to the parents’ agreement or as the court finds to be in the best interest of the child,
- provide for child support, and
- optimize the development of a close ongoing relationship between each parent and the child.
The last bullet point means to ensure that the child is well cared for and can have as a close and healthy a bond as possible with each parent, and encompasses details like:
- How the two parents will share or divide decision-making rights and responsibilities
- Which parent (called the custodial conservator) will have the right to choose the child’s main residence, and whether or not that residence must be within a certain area. Two parents can share this right, in which case an area must be established in which both parents will live,
- Whether each parent will be a managing conservator (the parent who makes decisions about the child) or a possessory conservator (the parent who is entitled to visits with the child). At least one but ideally both parents can be managing conservators.
- How parents will share or divide rights and responsibilities surrounding the child’s physical care, support, and education
- How the conservators will pay the child’s dental and medical costs
- Provisions to minimize disruptions to the child’s routine, education, and friendships
Parenting plans are required in Texas in order to minimize disruptions to your child’s life and maximize their overall health and happiness. Like any parent, you want what’s best for your child. A parenting plan is a good way to ensure that, but that doesn’t mean putting one together will be stress-free for you. Child custody is one of the most contentious areas of family law – ideally, you are on good terms with your partner or spouse when putting together a parenting plan, but if not, things can be even more difficult.
So, what can you do to make putting together a parenting plan as painless as possible?
Work with a Mediator
An impartial mediator can help you and your spouse or partner work through your differences when forming a parenting plan, minimize stress, and make sure the final plan honors your preferences and is in your child’s best interests.
Try out an Online Template
There are many parenting plan templates available online with just a quick Google search. This is NOT to say that you should base your parenting plan solely on the information in these forms, but looking through a few examples can give you a better idea of what your final plan should look like.
Work with a Lawyer
You don’t want your parenting plan to leave any room for interpretation or confusion, and working with an experienced Texas legal professional, like Carrie Marquis of Marquis Family Law, can help make sure your plan covers everything it needs to.
Do your research, seek legal advice if needed, and bear in mind the information in this post, and you’re well on your way to creating a comprehensive parenting plan that keeps your and your child’s best interests in mind.