Seeking the child’s best interests through parenting plans

When children are involved, part of the process of legal separation in Texas now includes a requirement to submit parenting plans.

In Texas, some marriages will inevitably end in divorce. After filing for divorce, the ensuing legal process can be emotionally draining. Decisions must be made that will impact multiple lives into the future. The magnitude of these decisions is amplified when children are involved. Sensitive issues, such as child custody and visitation rights, must be resolved. In order to help parents work together, in the best interest of children involved, the Texas state legislature now requires parenting plans.

What are parenting plans?

In brief, parenting plans are court orders, authored by separating parents, which specify their respective entitlements and responsibilities regarding any shared children. Per the Texas Family Code, the parental entitlements and responsibilities specified in these court orders relate primarily to child custody and visitation rights.

The motive of this legislated requirement is the assumption that parents, better than anyone else, know what post-divorce arrangement is in the child's best interests. Therefore, giving parents the responsibility to structure those arrangements is the most plausible way to provide the best parent-child outcomes. In addition, the hope is that up-front input from parents will lead to fewer points of contention between parents in the future. In turn, this may lead to fewer legal battles involving children.

How does the process work?

The first step in the process is for the parents to collaborate on drafting a plan. In some cases, parents may find it difficult to work together during this drafting stage. In response, some parents choose to hire a private mediator who may be able to facilitate a process that might otherwise be frustrated by contention. In other cases or in addition to private mediators, the relevant Texas court may appoint a parenting coordinator to help with any issues.

Obtaining legal representation

During the process of constructing parenting plans, it is important for each parent's views on what is in their children's best interests to be adequately represented. For this reason, Texas parents engaging in this process may wish to consult with a family law attorney.

Keywords: divorce, separation, child, custody