Texas Parenting Plan and Agreement Guidelines

The laws governing Texas parenting plans and agreements are found in Title 5, Chapter 153 of the Texas Family Code.

Here are some guidelines from the law that will help you as you make your parenting plan.

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Conservatorship and possession

Texas uses the word conservatorship instead of custody. Conservatorship refers to parents' rights and responsibilities of their children, including the right to make decisions for the child.

Texas uses the phrase possession of and access to the child instead of visitation. The possession and access schedule shows when each parent has time with the child.

Joint managing conservatorship

Joint managing conservatorship is when parents share decision making responsibilities. With joint managing conservatorship, the parenting plan must state which decisions the parents can make independently, which decisions the parents make together, and which decisions that only one parent makes.

Parents can agree to joint managing conservatorship or the court may order it.

Here are some factors to consider when deciding if joint conservatorship is right for you:

  • If parents can make shared decisions based on the welfare of the child
  • If parents can support a positive relationship between the child and the other parent
  • How much each parent participated in child rearing before the separation
  • How close the parents live to each other
  • If your child's needs and development benefit from joint conservatorship
  • Your child's preference, if your child is 12 years or older, about the parent who can choose the child's primary residence

The judge will also consider these factors before ordering joint conservatorship.

Sole managing conservatorship

Sole managing conservatorship is when one parent has the responsibility to make decisions for the child and chooses where the child will live.

When one parent is the sole managing conservator, the other parent is a possessory conservator. A possessory conservator has scheduled possession of and access to the child (visitation).

A sole managing conservator has the right to:

  • Choose where the child lives
  • Consent to invasive medical and dental care procedures
  • Consent to psychiatric and psychological treatment
  • Make decisions about the child's education
  • Consent to the child marrying and enlisting in the armed forces
  • Receive child support

A managing and possessory conservator both have the right to:

  • Receive information about the child's health, education, and welfare
  • Confer with the other parent before making decisions about the child
  • Access the child's medical, dental, psychological, and educational records
  • Attend the child's school activities
  • Be designated as an emergency contact on the child's records
  • Consent to emergency medical care

The parenting plan should say the rights and duties of the managing and possessory conservator.

Information to include in your plan

Your parenting plan should include:

  • The conservator who has the right to choose the child's primary residence
  • How the parents will divide and share the decision making responsibility
  • Each parent's duties regarding the physical care, support, and education of the child
  • A possession and access schedule (visitation schedule) that shows when the child is with each parent
  • Provisions that guide how the parents will care for the child
  • A way to resolve disputes about the plan instead of going to court
Process to make your plan a court order

When you and the other parent negotiate a plan you both agree on, you can submit it together to the court. If the court thinks the plan is in the best interest of the child, the court will make the plan into a court order.

If the court decides the parenting plan is not in the child's best interest, the court will ask you to make a new plan to serve the child's best interest.

If you and the other parent cannot agree on a plan, the court will make a parenting plan for the family and that plan will become the court order.

You can go to arbitration to help settle disputes about the plan instead of going to court. You can also attend mediation for help in making your plan.

The court may require you to attend mediation and it can also order one or both parents to participate in counseling with a mental health professional.

Factors the court considers when deciding on a plan

The main factor the court considers when deciding on a parenting plan is the best interest of the child.

In deciding what is best for the child, the court will consider:

  • The preference of the parents about conservatorship of the child
  • The history of the care of the child
  • Which parent has served as the child's primary care-giver
  • The relationships between the child and each parent
  • The physical, mental, and emotional health of the child
  • If the child has any special needs, and how well each parent can meet those needs
  • Each parent's capacity to perform parental responsibilities
  • Each parent's capacity to raise the child in a safe, stable, loving environment
  • Each parent's capacity to provide the child with clothing, food, shelter, etc
  • The child's adjustment to his or her home, school, and community
  • If the child has any siblings or close relationships with other family members
  • Other people living in the child's home which may have a harmful effect on the child
  • If either parent has committed domestic violence, physical or sexual abuse, neglect, substance abuse, or any other act that has or may endanger the child

The courts also follow the Texas public policy in making decisions about parenting plans.

The public policy of Texas is to:

  • Provide a safe, stable, and nonviolent environment for the child
  • Give children frequent and continuing contact with loving parents
  • Encourage parents to share in the rights and duties of raising their child

The court will not consider the marital status or the sex of the parents when making decisions about the parenting plan.

You should think about all of these factors as you make your parenting plan or prepare for court.

Custody X Change is software that creates professional parenting plan documents and possession and access schedules.

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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.

Custody X Change is software that creates professional parenting plan documents and possession and access schedules.

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