Texas law presumes that divorcing parents should be joint managing conservators. This means that they would share decision-making responsibilities about a child. It does not necessarily mean that the children’s time would be evenly split between parents.
Under Texas law, custody orders refer to parenting time as access and possession, which is equivalent to the terms custody and visitation used in many other states. Possession is the time a parent and child spend together.
Access means the parents and children can interact by phone, face time, text, or a parent attending a child’s extracurricular activities. It also means that the parent has access to the children’s medical, dental, and school records.
Establishing a Parenting Plan
Texas family courts encourage parents to work together to establish their own parenting plan. Some items that should be included in the plan include:
- When the children will be living at each parent’s home.
- How transfers of children from one parent to the other will be made.
- A plan to keep each other informed about events in the children’s lives, such as doctor’s appointments, after-school events, and activities such as recitals, school programs, sports activities, and others.
- Making sure each parent is on the school contact list and on the list the school keeps of those approved to pick up the children from school when necessary.
- Agreeing to consult with each other about important events in the children’s lives, like where they will go to school, will they or will they not go to church, what about summer camp, and any other decision that would be jointly made if the parents had not divorced.
A parenting plan benefits the children in that they know what to expect. They know where they will be on any day of the week, and they know that both parents are still involved in their lives. They know they can always communicate with both parents, even when they are physically in the home of just one.
A parenting plan may also include terms of child support including how much one parent will pay to the other and on what date the payment will be due. Arrangements can be made for direct deposit of the support payment into the receiving parent’s bank account.