Any Texas divorce that involves minor children must include a parenting plan. Texas law requires certain issues to be addressed in the plan, but the most effective plans include circumstances beyond the basic mandates.
An attorney experienced in family law and divorce can help protect your and your child’s best interests. You will benefit from the support of a sharp legal mind whether your divorce is contentious and headed to court or you and your spouse can hammer out an agreement without a judge.
Requirements in a Texas Parenting Plan
The Texas legislature added the necessity of a parenting plan in 1995. In Sec. 153.007, the parenting plan contains provisions for conservatorship and possession of the child as well as how modifications to the plan will be handled. Texas uses “conservatorship” in its legal language and not “custody.”
If parents negotiate the details outside of court, the proposed parenting plan will be presented to a judge for approval. If the judge believes the plan represents the child’s best interests, the plan will have the power of a court order. Parents who violate the plan can be charged with contempt. Should the judge not approve the proposed plan, the parents will be asked to return to the negotiation table and revise the plan. If the parents are unable to do so, the court may schedule a hearing for a judge to determine the child’s best interests.
Required parenting plan provisions include the following:
- Naming the child’s managing conservator(s) and/or possessory conservator (noncustodial parent with the right to visitation)
- Dividing decision-making rights and responsibilities
- Dividing the physical care, support, and education of the child
- Determining the amount of any child support to be paid and by whom
- Creating a schedule of when the child will be with each parent
- Naming which parent has the authority to decide the primary residence of the child
- Designating an area within which the child will live
- Explaining how the child’s medical and dental costs will be covered
The parenting plan must demonstrate that the child’s education, routine, and friendships are disrupted as little as possible.
It is important to note that even if a parent is denied managing or possessory conservatorship, that parent can still be ordered to pay child support. Also, joint managing conservatorship does not necessarily mean equal or nearly equal possession.
Inclusions that Boost Parenting Plan Effectiveness
The Texas standard possession order is robust but adding additional elements to the standard plan can help avoid disputes between parents down the road.
There will be times when the exact letter of the parenting plan will be violated. From an illness of parent or child to car trouble, the plan should also include some flexibility. Parents should remain adaptable within the parameters outlined in the parenting plan.
Along those same lines, a good parenting plan should also outline an alternative dispute resolution process that will be used if disagreements arise in the future. Parents will first attempt to resolve issues through this process before going to court.
Other helpful parenting plan provisions include the following:
- Designating a competent adult allowed to pick up and return the child on the parent’s behalf
- Disallowing taking the child out of state without the other parent’s knowledge and consent
- Specifying how much time can lapse before a parent is informed of an injury or hospitalization of a child
- Deciding how the child’s extracurricular activities will be funded
- Determining the child’s access to the internet, social media, and cell phones
- Outlining how to save for the child’s college or other educational expenses
- Establishing where the family pet lives
- Notifying the other parent promptly when there is a remarriage
The parenting plan can be extensive yet should allow for some degree of flexibility. With the help of an attorney from The Springer Law Firm in Katy, you can draft a parenting plan that addresses both the current and future needs of your children.
Build a Parenting Plan that Works for Your Family
The questions and concerns for minor children are among the most challenging aspects to resolve in a divorce. Even in situations where the parents are amicable, disagreements are likely to surface. Our decades of family law experience enable us to effectively guide our clients to potential solutions.
A strong yet flexible parenting plan that works for your family lays the foundation for effective co-parenting. The best interests of the child and our client are the priority of our work.
The Springer Law Firm can guide you through creating a parenting plan. The first step is to schedule a free initial consultation with us. Contact us online or call (281) 990-6025.