Couples wishing to divorce in Texas have several legal hoops to jump through. One of these is the parenting plan, which Texas law requires you to submit if you are divorcing with children. Lawmakers introduced this requirement to promote the best interests of the children and encourage the parents to cooperate in setting up effective parenting arrangements going forward.
Understanding what to expect with your parenting plan and what to include will make it easier and faster to get through the process successfully.
The plan will be part of the final order
After the judge reviews and approves the plan, it becomes incorporated into the final custody order, which gives its provisions the force of a regular court order. Parents wishing to change any part of the plan after the judge issues the final order will need to formally request a modification from the court. For this reason, parents should think seriously about every part of the plan and not treat it as just another item on a paperwork checklist. Your attorney can advise you about potential legal and practical ramifications of certain points.
Contents of the plan
An effective parenting plan sets out the parents' respective legal responsibilities in regards to the children, as well as practical arrangements such as visitation schedules. Your plan should address any issues you know hold importance in your particular situation, such as religious observance, education and other values. The plan should set forth the rules for handling emergencies or care decisions. Anticipate that you and your ex will disagree in the future and describe how the two of you intend to resolve conflicts constructively.
Who can help
Many parents choose to work with their attorneys to develop parenting plans. In some high-conflict situations, a parent coordinator can mediate between the parents to help them come to a consensus. When that is not possible, the court may impose a parenting plan. However, parents can create a better plan if they make an effort to overcome their differences and formulate an acceptable plan, as they know their children best.
If you are in the process of divorcing with minor children, you face a number of added legal complications. A qualified family law attorney can help you through this difficult time and work to protect your and your children's interests.