What is a parenting plan?

Parents in Texas are encouraged to set up a parenting plan to avoid unnecessary conflicts regarding their children.

One of the most difficult aspects of divorce for the entire family after separation is the arrangement of where the children will live and what each parent's role will be. USA Today recently reported that child custody laws are going through an overhaul in many states, moving away from physical custody to shared parenting. This gives both parents the ability to spend time with their children and enables children to maintain a loving relationship with each parent.

In Texas, the state's Family Code encourages parents to put together what is known as a "parenting plan". This is a document that encourages parents to put the interests of their children ahead of their own and work together. Parents who are presenting their own plan should be aware that the court has the right to reject the plan if it feels the document does not focus on what is best for the children. In the event that the court rejects the plan, parents can submit a revised one or the court has the option to create its own.

Reducing conflict

While it is natural for parents to have different ideas on how their children should be raised, these conflicts can escalate into lengthy and costly court battles. A parenting plan gives parents the ability to set up a legal agreement in the same way that they might put together a business plan. Parents should understand that the other parent is not going to just disappear after the divorce. There will be times when both parents will want to be there for their children, such as graduations, birthdays, weddings and special events.

The parenting plan should downplay the emotional side of the parents' relationship and instead, put the focus on the child. It sets up guidelines as to which parent(s) will handle school problems, which parent(s) will make the medical decisions, and how parents will split the costs of extracurricular activities, school supplies, medical care and special equipment.

Providing security

Children handle divorce differently, but they need to feel that both parents are still a vital part of their world. The Office of the Attorney General of Texas points out that one way to do that is to set up a workable schedule where each parent is given ample time with the child. Parents should choose drop-off and pickup times, locations where the exchanges will be made, and plan for vacations, holidays and special occasions.

Additionally, the parenting plan should also be tailored to the needs of each child. For example, a teenager should be given the opportunity to spend time with friends rather than force the teen to spend all their time between the parents. A younger child, however, needs a more structured schedule and interaction with each parent to feel secure and loved, despite the changes going on around him or her.

Parents may find it difficult to put together a parenting plan that will meet the needs of their children and that will still receive the court's approval. Meeting with an experienced family lawyer may be beneficial.