The most important decision for parents going through a divorce is what happens to the children. Parents often will be appointed joint managing conservators, which means they will share in the decision about where the children live, where they go to school, how they spend their time during school holidays, and jointly agree to invasive medical or dental procedures.
Less frequently, courts may give one parent sole managing conservatorship, which means the parent has the sole authority to make decisions for their child often without the input of the other parent. In that case, the other parent will be named the possessory conservator and will have more limited rights concerning the children.
In both a sole and a joint conservatorship, Texas law presumes that the Standard Possession Order is best for most children who are 3 years of age or older.
Court decisions concerning conservatorship may depend on whether the parents are going through a traditional divorce process or a collaborative divorce.
Court Decisions in a Traditional Divorce
Texas courts base their decisions on what they determine is in the best interest of the children. A traditional divorce is an adversarial process where both sides present evidence to support what they personally want for their children.
They are given the opportunity to present to the court live witness testimony from whoever they believe will support their side. It can get ugly when one parent presents damaging evidence against the other and the family “dirty laundry” gets aired.
After hearing all the evidence, the Judge or Jury makes the final decision on conservatorship. This results in a court order that both parents must comply with or risk being held in contempt of court.
It does not have to be this way. A collaborative divorce puts the decisions back in the hands of the parents to decide what is best for their family.
Court Decisions in a Collaborative Divorce
In a collaborative divorce, the parents and their attorneys meet to jointly decide what they believe is in the best interest of the children. They develop a parenting plan which includes whether they will have joint managing conservatorship or sole managing conservatorship, and what type of rights, privileges, duties and powers each parent will retain concerning the children They also decide on the best possession schedule, which can be the same as or very different from the Standard Possession Order.
The parenting plan is presented to the court. If the court determines the plan is in the best interest of the children, it becomes the final court order and is binding on both parents.
In a collaborative divorce, parents talk about the important decisions concerning their family in a more rational manner. It is less emotionally-charged than what occurs in a traditional adversarial process.
Parents are more likely to comply with the terms of their agreed parenting plan, which means there will be less fighting in the future. Hopefully, this leaves the children in a healthier place where they are able to succeed at a higher level. Parents who have gone through the collaborative process have positive reviews.
For More Information About Collaborative Divorce, Contact an Experienced Dallas Family Law Attorney.