Set Up A Successful Texas Co-Parenting Plan
A well-thought out parenting plan can prevent disputes from arising between parents and help them focus on their children.
Going through a divorce in Texas is never easy, especially when it comes to the children involved. The Texas Department of State Health Services reports that over 82,000 marriages within the state ended in divorce during 2010. Additionally, over 64,000 children were affected by those divorces in some way.
Shared parenting encouraged
When two parents are not getting along, child custody cases can become long and bitter. However, USA Today states that more states are starting to embrace and encourage the concept of shared parenting. Courts, lawmakers and others are starting to recognize that children need to have a relationship with both parents and that need is beginning to guide the decisions made by the court.
Here in Texas, the state’s Family Code echoes this sentiment, stating that children should “have frequent and continuing contact with parents.” When courts are asked to step in and make a decision in child custody or visitation, the law charges them to always act with the child’s best interest in mind. Additionally, the court may require parents to create and present a parenting plan.
Drafting a parenting plan
A successful parenting plan can eliminate unnecessary legal issues and help parents keep the focus on their children rather than their issues with each other. The Texas Attorney General’s Office states that parenting plans should contain the following elements:
- Decision making – sets up which parent will make decisions regarding the child’s day-to-day needs, religious upbringing, education, health care and entertainment.
- Visitation schedule – should include time when child will be picked up, dropped off, locations to pick up or drop off the child, holidays, vacations and special events such as graduations, birthdays or religious celebrations
- Expenses not covered in child support – child support only goes so far so parents should discuss how they will address unexpected medical bills, sports camps, school supplies and private lessons for music or dance.
- Communication methods – if there is a disagreement between the two parents, the plan can spell out how that dispute will be resolved such as using a neutral friend, professional mediator or a simple phone call.
- House rules – bed times, doing homework, chores, time spent with friends, TV watching, using the computer and disciplinary actions
- Relocation – sets up a process to follow in the event that a parent desires to move out of the state or several hours away.
Additionally, each parenting plan should keep in mind the specific needs of the child’s age group. Teenagers will need a plan that recognizes their own desires for independence and freedom in making their own decision. A toddler will need a plan that is more structured with activities and bonding time with each parent. To ensure that a parenting plan covers all potential issues, parents may want to speak with an attorney.
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