The winning Dallas lawyers at Martin Oostdyk understand that the process of divorce in Texas is often painful, and when there are children involved, it can be even more so. When you start down the path of divorce with children in Texas, it is critical to understand what needs to be included in a Texas parenting plan.
1. First, there are two types of designations used in a Texas parenting plan: Managing Conservator and Possessory Conservator. In a Texas parenting plan, either you or the court will always name one or both parents (or competent adults) as managing conservators. The difference between a managing conservator and a possessory conservator in Texas are as follows:
Managing Conservator: This is the person (or people) are who make the major decisions about the child. of the child(ren) on issues including healthcare, religion, and schooling. Most often, this is the parent (or another competent adult) with whom the children spend a majority of their time.
Possessory Conservators: This is the person who is entitled to visitation with the child.
2. With the understanding of these designations, parents must then discuss and decide how they will share or divide these decision-making rights and responsibilities which include:
Which parent will the children mainly live with? This is often referred to as the custodial parent or custodial conservator.
Whether or not the residence must be within a certain area. For example, within the child’s existing school boundary zone, or a certain distance from the other parent’s home.
3. The next item for discussion is how to craft the Texas visitation schedule (referred to in Texas as a possession and access schedule) which should clearly spell out when the child will be with each parent, including holidays. This can be a very hard process and it is important to remember that whatever visitation agreement you come to, it should be in the child’s best interest. If there has not been a mediator, arbitrator or involvement from a collaborative law attorney, a judge will carefully look at the Texas parenting plan and visitation agreement to ensure the plan is in the best interest of the child.
4. Once you have outlined a visitation schedule, there needs to be discussion around the financial responsibilities of raising the child(ren) which may include who will pay Texas child support (including medical and dental expenses). In the state of Texas, the parent who has primary possession and access to the child, or whose residence is designated as the primary living space, will be most likely to receive child support. However, the Texas court, when considering the best interest of a child, will determine whether or not child support payments are necessary.
5. Last, it is vital that communication between the parents is productive and that there is a positive dialogue between each parent and the child(ren). In addition to the custody issues and financial support discussed above, the Texas parenting plan should include provisions for how to handle disputes, a decision process for any unexpected situations that may arise, and any rules around communication between the parents (common in highly contested divorces).