When a couple decides to dissolve their relationship, one of the most important aspects is the disposition of children. There are questions about where the children will live, who will support them, and when the other parent will get to see them.
Each divorce case involving children will end with a parenting plan, a written order that answers these questions. In any Texas family court, the main concern is the best interest of the children. Therefore, during the divorce negotiations, it’s best to consider the children’s best interest when making decisions related to them.
An advantage to creating your own parenting plan is that both parents can make their own decisions about their children’s future. Otherwise, it’s left up to the court system.
Child-focused disagreements in a divorce that are focused on the children can have a negative impact on them. Working with your former spouse to protect the children and their relationships with both parents can help ease the transition while maintaining strong parental bonds.
Conservatorship In Texas
While many people know the term “child custody,” in the state of Texas it’s known as “conservatorship,” The Texas Family Code, Section 153.001, sets out the definition. Similarly, “visitation” is known as “possession and access.”
A conservator is an individual who has rights to a child or children, such as a parent. There are two ways parents can be named conservators:
- “Joint managing conservators” (aka “joint custody”)
- “Sole managing conservator,” with the non-custodial parent as “possessory conservator.”
Courts prefer joint managing conservators, but they do have some flexibility when awarding rights to parents. This requires that the parents work together when making decisions and come to an agreement.
When a court names one parent as the sole managing conservator, that parent is given exclusive rights to make individual decisions on behalf of the child without consulting the possessory conservator. The court will consider the family situation, the possible presence of domestic violence, and conflict between the parents related to the children.
Every parenting plan includes important provisions about how both parents will continue to care for the children. Included are decisions and rights, such as:
- Determining where the child will live, and with whom
- Educational decisions, such as where the child will attend school and other related issues
- Making medical decisions for the child, including invasive medical procedures and psychiatric/psychological treatments
- Child support
- Provisions for medical and dental insurance for the children, and the financial responsibility of each parent to provide coverage
An important part of any parenting plan is the “possession schedule,” or visitation. The courts encourage children to have strong relationships with both parents. Therefore, they should agree on a schedule that best meets their needs and allows children to spend substantial time with both parents.
If the parents cannot come to an agreement, the court will order a Standard Possession Order, which includes:
- Visits on the first, third, and fifth weekends
- Thursdays during the school year
- Alternating holidays and Spring Break
- Thirty days during the summer months
Parents can create the schedule on their own, or with the help of a family law attorney. Factors such as parental working hours, the distance between parents (especially if one lives out of state), and the children’s school schedules are all factors in possession time.
Some parents may request a 50/50 possession schedule that gives both parents equal time with their children. While it’s not required by law, if both parents want a 50/50 schedule, a judge may award it.
If in the future a parenting plan is proving unworkable, due to one or both parent’s schedules, or those of the children, parents can go back to court and request a modification of the parenting plan that better suits their needs.
Parenting Plan? Contact Fort Worth’s Compassionate Family Law Attorney
Texas children have a right to have a relationship with both of their parents throughout their lives, and parents have a right to create a parenting plan that works for everyone.
Wendy L. Hart is an experienced family law attorney helping people throughout Tarrant County with visitation rights. We represent both men and women in family law cases. We’ll make sure you’re treated fairly and will protect your interests and your children.