If you file for divorce or legal separation and have minor children, you and your spouse should create a parenting plan. Under Texas law, a parenting plan can be part of your child custody agreement or a separate document. You have the option to create your own parenting plan rather than the court ordering it. However, a judge must approve it for the agreement to become legally binding.
Texas usually requires it for parents who share custody of their children, but it can make a positive difference no matter your situation as it can minimize conflict between parents and create stability for your child.
Standard provisions in a Texas parenting plan are:
- Custody and visitation
- Communication between parents and child
- Financial responsibilities
- Dispute resolution strategies
Parents are free to incorporate additional provisions, including the possibility to modify the agreement, as long as a judge approves them.
Physical Custody and Visitation Schedule
Texas laws refer to physical custody and visitation schedule as possession and access. Possession concerns where your child will primarily live. Depending on your situation and how close you and your co-parent live, your child may alternate between both parents’ residences every week or even every other day, or you may opt for the child to visit their non-custodial parent during specific times such as weekends or during the holidays.
Your parenting plan and/or child custody court order can include physical custody arrangements for most of the year with different agreements for school breaks and holidays.
A court order can divide physical and legal custody differently. In Texas, legal custody is known as conservatorship. It is the type of custody that impacts the type of major decisions each parent is allowed to make for their child. Parents may share none, some, or all of this type of custody depending on their preferences and the child’s best interests.
Major decisions concern:
- Extracurricular activities
Specific points you may want to address include who is the primary person of contact for a medical emergency, and who needs to attend appointments with doctors or school representatives. Even if one parent has decision-making authority for a specific matter, they should nevertheless communicate about it with the other parent in most cases.
Determining what financial responsibilities each parent has is important to ensure continuous resources for your child. You can decide how to pay for accommodations, education, extracurricular activities, food, and healthcare. It also involves whose health insurance your child is on and whether they receive additional benefits due to one or both parents’ professional or military situation.
Although child support payments often play an important role in ensuring your child’s well-being, this part of your parenting plan can also include future funding for their post-secondary education or other savings you want them to have once they are older.
Outlining one or more strategies to address any dispute between you and your co-parent can streamline the process and alleviate stress for both parents and children. When you are in the middle of a conflict, it can be difficult to keep the big picture in mind and focus on your child’s well-being. Negotiating methods to successfully resolve disputes is a key element in your parenting plan. Even if you and your co-parent are usually willing to collaborate, you should not skip that step to be on the safe side and continue to support open and constructive conversation after your divorce or legal separation.
Common additional provisions parents can include in their parenting plan include how to discuss specific topics with the child, like if one parent decides to date or remarry, or if relocation becomes a possibility.
Parents can also agree on their preferred method to exchange information about their child and how you may communicate with the child while they are spending time with the other parent.
Can We Modify Our Parenting Plan?
You can petition for a modification of a court order under specific circumstances. However, any modification must support your child’s best interests for a judge to approve it. Once your child turns 12, they also have the right to share their preference about where to live and other decisions that may affect them although a judge does not have to automatically grant the child’s wishes.
Hire a Reputable Family Law Attorney to Protect Your Parental Rights
Family law is complex and ensuring that your parenting plan supports your child’s best interests help you secure a judge’s approval. Attorney Tracy can help you draft a parenting plan and/or review what you and your spouse have prepared. If you have difficulties negotiating with your spouse, hiring a specialized family law attorney can also increase your chances of creating a parenting plan that is beneficial for all parties involved. At Cynthia Tracy, Attorney at Law, P.C., we are committed to protecting your parental rights and ensuring your child’s well-being whether you are defining your initial parenting plan or filing for modifications.
If you need a compassionate family law attorney to help you design your parenting plan, contact Cynthia Tracy, Attorney at Law, P.C., today at (281) 612-5443 to schedule a consultation in Houston!