Texas Parenting Plans and Custody Agreements
This article covers custody agreements in Texas and gives guidelines on creating an effective parenting plan for Texas courts.
You can write up your own parenting plan (on your own or with the other parent) or you can work with an attorney or legal professional and have them create it. If you don't want to pay the high cost of an attorney, and want to easily make your own agreement, you can use the Custody X Change software.
Custody X Change is software that creates professional parenting plan documents and parenting schedules.
When you bring a family law case involving the custody of children before the court in the State of Texas, you can expect to be asked to submit a mutually agreed upon parenting plan to the court.
To ensure your parenting plan will be accepted by the court, it is helpful to be familiar with the laws pertaining to child custody and visitation in Texas. These laws can be found in the Texas Family Code, Title 5, The Parent-Child Relationship and the Suit Affecting the Parent-Child Relationship.
The Texas Family Code details the factors the court uses when ruling on custody and explains how the best interests of the child will result in the acceptance or denial of a parenting plan.
Using the law as a tool when creating your parenting plan may give you an advantage in your case.
Two words that you will come across as you go through the custody process are "conservator" and "possession".
In Texas, "conservator" is a term used to describe the custodian or residential parent of the child.
"Possession" is another word for custody.
The word "custody" is used in the following sections and is meant to be interchangeable with the word "possession".
It is the public policy (§ 153.001) of the State of Texas to ensure that children have certain rights afforded to them.
The policy of the State of Texas is to assure that children have a safe, stable, non-violent home environment and that they have frequent, meaningful, on-going contact with each of the child's parents, provided the parents have shown the ability to act in the child's best interests and are of no danger to the child.
The State of Texas encourages parents to share parental duties and the rights and responsibilities of their child after they have separated or divorced.
The State of Texas will not allow access to a child to be based on the payment of child support. The child is as entitled to the visitation as the parent is.
In the State of Texas, the best interests of the child is the primary consideration when making a ruling on a custody case (§ 153.002). Some of the factors the court may consider include:
- The preference of the parents, as to the conservatorship (custody) of their child.
- The history of the care of the child.
- Which parent has served as the child's primary care-giver.
- The interrelationships between the child and each parent.
- The physical, mental, and emotional health of the child.
- Whether or not the child has any special needs, and which parent is better equipped to meet those needs.
- The capacity of each parent to perform parental responsibilities and to protect and raise the child in a safe, stable, loving environment.
- The capacity of each parent to provide the child with necessities such as adequate clothing, food, shelter, education, and medical care.
- The child's adjustment to his or her home, school, and community.
- Whether or not the child has any siblings or close relationships with other family members.
- The presence of any other people living in the child's home or proposed home, or anyone who frequently visits the home, which may have a harmful or negative effect on the child.
- If any person poses a danger to the child (such as a convicted drug dealer or sex offender), it will be highly scrutinized by the court.
- Whether or not evidence is presented that demonstrates either parent has committed domestic violence, physical or sexual abuse, neglect, substance abuse, or any other act that has or may endanger the child.
- Any other factors that may affect the child's best interests.
The State of Texas allows parents to develop and create their own parenting arrangements and submit their parenting plan to the court (§ 153.007).
As long as the court finds the parenting plan to be written in the best interests of the child, the court will issue an order in accordance with the parenting plan.
If the court finds the parenting plan is not in the child's best interest, the court will ask the parents to revise the plan and modify it to serve the child's best interests.
Whenever parents are unable to agree or cannot submit a parenting plan that is suitable for the child, the court will develop a parenting plan for the family and the parents will be legally obligated to follow the plan (§ 153.007.b).
By making every effort to reach an agreement with the other parent, you retain control of the details of your parenting plan, which benefits your child and yourself.
Your Texas parenting plan can include:
- A statement detailing the conservatorship of each parent.
- A designation of one parent's home as the child's primary residence, if the parents have a joint conservatorship.
- A delegation of the parental rights, responsibilities, and authority of each parent.
- A possession schedule that contains a residential schedule as well as schedules for holidays and vacations.
- Methods for modifying the plan and dispute resolution.
- Any other stipulations you wish to include, such as transportation arrangements or provisions for extracurricular activities.
The parenting plan will serve as the rules for raising your child and you will be legally obligated to abide by the conditions set forth in the plan until you child reaches adulthood. It is important to develop the plan in a manner that will help both parents avoid conflict in the future.
This can be accomplished by addressing as many issues as you can think of, keeping in mind the child's needs will change as he or she matures. The extra effort you put into the parenting plan now will help prevent future disputes, which benefits everyone.
The top twenty cities in Texas (by population, US Census Bureau, 2008) are: Houston, San Antonio, Dallas, Austin, Fort Worth, El Paso, Arlington, Corpus Christi, Plano, Laredo, Lubbock, Garland, Irving, Amarillo, Brownsville, Grand Prairie, Pasadena, Mesquite, McAllen, Carrolltown.