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Negotiating a Parenting Plan in the Child's Best Interests

Jan. 18, 2019

The Importance of Negotiating a Parenting Plan With an Ex

One of the hardest parts of the divorce process for couples with children involves determining custody and visitation arrangements. According to the Texas Department of State Health Services, 45.2 percent of the divorces that took place in the Lone Star State in 2013 involved children. If you’re involved in a custody dispute, an experienced family law attorney may be able to help you negotiate a settlement that will enable you to get the time you want to spend with your children.

Texas Conservatorships

Texas statutes use the word “conservator” instead of “parent” when describing the legal rights and responsibilities of guardians. Conservatorship as defined in Texas Family Code – FAM § 153.005 is a broader definition than parent since it includes guardians like the Department of Family and Protective Services, other licensed child-placing agencies, and other adults with a protective interest in the child as well as biological parents. If the biological parents cannot agree to an acceptable custody plan, then a family court judge will decide the specific terms of the conservatorship. In deciding on the terms, the judge will act in what he or she deems are the best interests of the child.

The two types of conservatorship in the Lone Star State are:

Joint managing conservatorship: Family courts typically begin with the presumption that it’s in the best interests of the child that both parents be named conservators. This arrangement is called joint managing conservatorship. However, joint managing conservatorship may not mean that both parents have equal rights of possession and access to the child.

Sole managing conservatorship: Sometimes, the family court judge will make one parent the sole conservator. This includes situations in which one of the parents has no interest in assuming the responsibilities of guardianship. It may also apply when one parent has a history of violence, addiction, or abandonment, or if extreme conflicts exist between the parents regarding subjects like education or religion. The parent who is not the sole conservator may still have visitation rights. He or she is referred to as the possessory conservator while the parent who’s been named as the sole conservator is referred to as the managing conservator.

Standard Possession Orders

Texas statutes define visitation rights as possession and access to the child. If parents cannot agree on a visitation schedule, the family court judge may use statutory guidelines to impose one. These guidelines go to such extreme lengths to be fair to both parties that the results may sometimes seem a tad excessive.

For example, take the degree of specificity incorporated into Texas Family Code – FAM § 153.314. Holiday Possession Unaffected by Distance Parents Reside Apart. This statute addresses which parent shall have rights of possession to the child on holidays like Christmas, Thanksgiving, Mother’s Day, and Father’s Day as well as on the child’s birthday. This statute states the possessory conservator shall have possession of the child between the end of school and December 28 on even-numbered years while the managing conservator shall have possession of the child on odd-numbered years. This degree of specificity and inflexibility may strike many as extreme, but it’s what divorcing parents face if they can’t put their differences aside and work together to negotiate a parenting plan that’s in the best interests of their child.

Negotiating a Parenting Plan

The only way to avoid being subjected to guidelines such as those contained in Texas Family Code – FAM § 153.314 is to negotiate a parenting plan with the other parent of your child. If both parents sign off on a parenting plan, a Texas family court judge will sign off on it too, in most instances.

This can be a difficult task if your communications with your soon-to-be former spouse or partner are tumultuous. However, amicable relations between parents are almost always in the best interests of the child. An experienced Texas family law attorney may be able to help you and the child’s other parent come to an agreement that works for everyone. Call Stewart Law in Baytown, Texas, today for more information.