The parenting plan plays an invaluable role in any child custody case, setting forth the terms for how parents behave and paving the way for a healthy, productive co-parenting relationship.
If you're preparing for a child custody case, the thought of drafting a parenting plan may be anxiety-inducing. Today, we're giving you all the information you need to construct a comprehensive parenting plan to protect your child's best interests.
Texas Parenting Plan Requirements
When two divorcees share children, the court will ask each parent to draft a parenting plan. The parenting plan lays out terms for the child custody arrangement. In most cases, courts try and pursue joint custody (also known as joint conservatorship in Texas), unless one parent has proven themselves unfit as a caretaker.
As part of the child custody battle, the court asks each parent to draft a parenting plan. If the parents agree on a custody arrangement, they can submit a joint plan to the court. Otherwise, the court evaluates each parenting plan and tries to develop a compromise that pursues the child's best interests, and that both parents find reasonable.
There are a few mandatory elements for any parenting plan developed in Texas:
- A determination of which parent will be the managing conservator (the custodial parent) and which will be the possessory conservator (the noncustodial parent). As we mentioned, many parents establish joint conservatorships. Managing conservators get unique head of household (HoH) tax breaks, so parents in joint conservatorships often switch HoH status every year to equalize the tax breaks.
- A timeshare arrangement, specifying how and when each parent will take custody of the child, how the parents will handle holidays and vacations, etc.
- A clause laying out how the parents will share or divide decision-making rights and responsibilities (often called "legal custody"), such as what medical care a child receives, their experiences with cultures and religions, requirements for education, what disciplinary tactics the parents can use, etc.
- A clause laying out how parents will share or divide physical rights and responsibilities (often called "physical custody"), such as where the child lives a majority of the time.
- Any child support stipulations.
- How the parents plan to contribute to the child's life post-divorce, pursuing their best interests and ensuring they receive the emotional support they need during this tumultuous time.
Extra Things to Include in Your Parenting Plan
In addition to the above requirements, you should consider including the following in your parenting plan:
- A clause preventing the parents from disparaging one another. This can prevent a "good cop, bad cop" dynamic from developing between the parents, helping the child manage the divorce more easily and maintain a more positive relationship with both parents.
- Stipulations for handling social media. You can read this blog to learn more.
- What will happen if a parent gets sick (or risks exposing the child to an illness)? The COVID-19 pandemic made parents who were essential workers scramble for custody order modifications. Prevent the same stress for in your co-parenting relationship by specifying what will happen if a parent falls seriously ill or risks exposing the child to a dangerous illness.
- How the parents will handle financial hardship. COVID-19 also shocked the economy, resulting in over 40 million lost jobs across the US. Discuss how the child custody arrangement might need to change if a parent loses their job.
- A clause itemizing costs. Splitting costs like health insurance can get risky if one party can't afford that month's payment. Itemizing costs is often a better way to reduce risk and helps parents avoid unexpected financial costs.
Developing a comprehensive parenting plan can increase your chances of receiving a favorable judgment in your child custody case.
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