What is a parenting plan and do I need one in Texas?
Parents going through a divorce must make important decisions regarding the well-being of their children. The divorce process is extremely tough for most people, and it becomes even more difficult when there are children involved. Since 2005, Texas law requires all couples going through a divorce to set up a parenting plan for their children.
This parenting plan should offer more than a Standard Possession Order and set out terms for custody, visitation, and access. When drafting parenting plans, it is important to get help from an experienced family law attorney. Having an experienced lawyer that cares about the best interest of your child will ensure that you get a fair custody agreement for your children.
At Skillern Firm, we understand that all legal matters involving children are quite difficult for parents. Our child custody attorneys understand the challenges faced by parents, and we want to use our experience and skills to ensure you get a positive outcome for your children. Our law firm handles parenting plans regularly, and we have a deep understanding of the Texas Family Code.
Call our law firm today to schedule a consultation at 936-213-8479.
What Are Parenting Plans?
A parenting plan is a legal document outlining the duties of both parents for their children during and after a divorce. Parents going through the divorce process can draft a parenting plan with the help of a family lawyer, outlining plans for legal custody, where the child lives, and which parent makes important decisions on the child’s medical, education, and well-being decisions.
Parents can include as much detail as they want in a parenting plan and can add additional provisions that are not required by law, including drop-off times for the children or vacation time. Our firm recommends you include as much detail as possible in a parenting plan to avoid confusion or disputes later on.
Because parents may disagree on what a ‘good parenting plan’ is, we recommend seeking help from a family attorney to help you draft a fair parenting plan. They will consider the best interest of the child, include necessary standard provisions, and ensure that all legal requirements are met. You can then submit this plan to the Judge and avoid a court order that is not in your favor. The court may also assign a Parenting Coordinator to help make impartial decisions.
Once the Judge accepts a parenting plan, the document will become legally binding. This means that both parents then have a legal obligation to abide by the terms of the plan and can face legal ramifications if they breach these terms.
Elements of Child Custody Agreements
Child custody arrangements in Texas have two primary elements: possession and access and conservatorship. In other states, this is known as legal custody and physical custody. It divides the rights and responsibilities of the parents into two categories; the physical custody or possession of the children, and the duty to make important decisions in their lives.
Possession and Access
‘Possession and access’ refers to the physical custody of a child. This includes where the child lives, whether one parent has primary possession of the child and the visitation rights of each parent.
A visitation schedule is set up for the noncustodial parent and can vary between cases. In a standard custody agreement, the other parent has possession of the child on the first, third, and fifth weekends of the month. The court will have a final say on a custody agreement and consider the best interests of the child.
It is rare for a Texas court to deny access to one parent unless they believe this is in the best interests of the child. Some cases where visitation could be denied include domestic abuse, child abuse, or drug addiction.
Conservatorship refers to the right of each parent to make important decisions about the child’s life. One or both parents can be a conservator of a child, in either a Sole Managing Conservatorship or a Joint Managing Conservatorship.
A sole conservator can make important decisions in the child’s life regarding their health, education, and well being. Possessory conservators can be involved in the decision-making process however, legally, they do not have a final say.
Most parenting plans have joint conservators, where both parents have equal rights and responsibilities for the child’s education, health, and other important decisions.
Parenting Plan Requirements Under Texas Law
When parents agree on custody issues involving their children and decide to draw up a parenting plan, they must include certain requirements, as provided under the Texas Family Code. These requirements include:
Conservatorship, or the responsibilities and duties of each parent and the custodial conservator
Geographical area of the child’s residence
Access and possession, including the primary caretaker, visitation rights, and access to the children outside of visitation hours
Decision-making process for issues in the child’s life, such as their health, education, school, and extracurricular activities
Steps and processes to support a strong parent-child relationship
These are the basic requirements to be included in all parenting plans. However, the more information you add, the stronger the plan will be.
Our lawyers recommend that you include as much information as possible to avoid confusion, including a requirement to notify the other parent when one parent cannot care for the child, and if there is another person, such as a grandparent, that can pick up and drop off the child for visitation.
Updating a Parenting Plan
As children get older and time passes after the divorce, living situations and relationships can change. It is appropriate that many families may update or change their parenting plans after several years. The court will consider any changes to child custody agreements that are in the best interests of the child.
Some situations that a Judge may allow a change to an order, provided it considers the best needs of the child, include:
Both parents support the change
Primary caretaker gave up possession of the child for over 6 months
A significant change in circumstance for the parents or the children
A child may also have their requests heard by a Judge once they turn 12. However, the Judge must only consider these requests and is not required to agree with the child. Speak with an experienced family law attorney if you need to update or change your child custody agreement.
Do I Need a Parenting Plan If I’m Not Married?
If you are not married but share a child with someone, you may need a parenting plan. If your parenting situation is complicated or you want to ensure that you have access to your children, speak with a lawyer to implement a plan.
A sound plan with the other parent can help encourage a healthy parent-child relationship and ensure that your child’s best interests are protected. The lawyers at Skillern Firm can also help you implement a plan for parenting if you are not going through a divorce.
What Is a Parenting Plan and Do I Need One in TX?
If you are a parent going through a divorce, you must draw up a parenting plan outlining custody arrangements, visitation, and important matters in your children’s lives. Every family law case is unique, and each family has different needs and requirements.
It is important that you get help from an experienced family law attorney to help you draw up a fair parenting plan that supports the best interests of your child.
Contact Skillern Firm Today!
At Skillern Firm, our family attorneys care about your case and want to ensure the best possible outcome for you and your children. Our law firm offers a unique brand of representation that ensures your best interest is protected.
We have four attorneys in our law firm that are Board Certified in Family Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization, which is an achievement only 1% of family law lawyers in Texas have received.
When you hire us as your legal representatives, you know you are getting the highest standard of legal representation. Our lawyers will ensure that parenting plans are in line with the Texas Family Code, cover all important matters regarding your child’s life, and are in your and their best interests.