At the Springer Law Firm, we consider a divorce to be the reorganization of a family. When parents don’t get along anymore and a divorce is necessary, the parties don’t stop being parents, and it is important to realize that when approaching separation and divorce. The children love both parents and the parents love the children: they just can’t all live together any more.
Child Custody and Visitation in Texas
The Texas Family Code recognizes this fact in addressing custody and visitation in the context of joint parenting or co-parenting. The parents are called “joint managing conservators” rather than the parent who has custody and the parent who visits. Parents maintain their ordinary rights such as the right to information from each other, the right to receive information from schools and from medical providers. They also maintain the same responsibilities such as the duty to care for the children, to feed, shelter, clothe, and tend to the children’s needs. Each parent maintains the right to take the children to the doctor for routine medical care, or for emergencies, such as if the child breaks a bone and needs immediate attention. Each parent also maintains the right to educate the children in his or her religious beliefs while the children are in his or her possession.
Some rights need to be allocated between the parents to promote the best interest and welfare of the children. For example, one parent is usually allocated the exclusive right to designate the primary residence of the children. If one parent has this right, it is tempered by a requirement that the primary residence be within a geographically restricted area. For example, if the parents live in Fort Bend County, the geographic restriction would be Fort Bend County and the counties contiguous to Fort Bend County. This restriction would stay in place for so long as the other parent resides in the same geographically restricted area. Should the other parent move away, then the parent with the right to designate the primary residence would no longer have to stay in the same area. Other important rights allocated between the parties are:
- The right to make educational decisions
- The right to make invasive medical decisions, and
- The right to make psychological and psychiatric decisions.
These rights can be allocated exclusively to one parent, jointly to the parents, or independently to each parent. If the right is exclusive to one parent, we like to provide that the decision will be made “after meaningful consultation with the other parent.” If the rights are joint, we usually designate a “tie breaker” such as the school’s counselor for educational decisions or the child’s primary care physician for invasive medical, psychological or psychiatric decisions. We usually don’t make the decision making independent on education and invasive medical—that would mean each parent could schedule different medical procedures or put the child in home schooling or other educational situations which might be detrimental to the child’s stability and continuity of care. Having independent rights to psychological treatment is more workable.
At the end of the day, if parents can no longer live together they can still co-parent and work together for the best interest of the children. At the Springer Law Firm, we work with our clients to reorganize their families in the best possible way, keeping the children’s best interest and welfare in mind as we craft a new organizational plan for the revised family unit.