A parenting plan is just what it sounds like: A plan put together by the parents or the court about how the parents of minor children will interact with each other in a way that will be in the best interest of the children. It includes terms for conservatorship, access to the children, child support and healthcare.
Elements of a Co-Parenting Plan
A co-parenting plan includes terms regarding custody, which in Texas is called “managing conservatorship”. Most courts will appoint parents joint managing conservators and will appoint one parent as the parent who makes major decisions and determines the primary residence of the children.
The court normally will restrict the parent with primary conservatorship to designate the children’s home within a certain geographical area. This is so both parents have access to the children. This geographical restriction can be lifted if the other parent no longer lives within that area or upon further order of the Court.
Establishing a Parenting Plan with the Assistance of Mediation or Collaborative Divorce
Hopefully, the parents are already doing a lot of things that are required of a parenting plan. Some things that normally would be in the parenting plan include:
- Keeping each other informed of important events in the children’s lives, like doctor’s appointments, after-school extracurricular activities, school programs, and other events.
- Making sure the other parent is on the contact list and approved pick-up list at the daycare or school.
- Keeping the other parent informed about school practices and performances.
In essence, the parents should be able to co-parent with each other for the benefit of their children. If they are having difficulty with any of these areas, they can request the assistance of “alternative dispute resolution” such as mediation or collaborative divorce.
Mediation. The parents meet with a neutral third-party mediator who helps them through the issues in forming their parenting plan. This can occur before attorney’s are involved or afterward, but the mediator is not able to act as both mediator and attorney for one side or the other.
Collaborative divorce. The parents work with a collaborative team that assists them in putting together a parenting plan that considers the parent’s interests while always considering what is in the best interest of the children.
Establishing a Parenting Plan: Court intervention
If the parents have trouble putting their own plan together, the court will order conservatorship and possession according to the Standard Possession Order which specifies which weekends the children will spend with which parent. The Court also will set child support and health care provisions pursuant to the Texas child support guidelines.
How Children Benefit from a Parenting Plan
The children benefit in many ways when the parents have an established parenting plan. They know they will be spending time with the other parent. They also will be able to communicate with both parents even when they are with only one parent.
Part of the parenting plan is allowing the children to use electronic communication to text, email, or have Facetime with the parent who does not have possession. They are also allowed to call that parent on the phone.
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