If you are getting a
divorce and also have a child then contained within your
Final Decree of Divorce will be parenting plan. This parenting plan discusses and will contain
the road-map for parenting your child until he or she reaches 18 and/or
graduates from high school. All of the important considerations to make
in regard to the child’s life and your role in it are contained therein.
What are those three important considerations that make up a parenting plan?
When we discuss a parenting plan we are really talking about the following:
- Child Support
These three component pieces make up the entirety of your relationship
with your child whether you are a divorced parent or not. Even parents
who are not divorced still basically parent along these same lines. The
only difference is that their parenting plan is not laid out in a long
legal document and signed off on by a judge.
If you are like most people who are considering whether or not to file
for a divorce or
child custody order in Texas then you probably are concerned about how much time you
will be allowed to have with your child once the order is put in place.
You’ve talked about “50/50” custody splits with friends and family to see if that is something
they think is practical or even possible to do. Whether you’ve been
the most active parent in the neighborhood or the parent who could’ve
managed to spend a few more evenings at home, the concerns are mostly
all the same once the decision is made to file a case with a
family law court.
Conservatorship = Rights and Duties
As a parent myself, I would not disagree with the sentiment that spending
time with your child is critical and just downright fun. Seeing your child
smile unlocks something in your heart that unless you’re a parent
you couldn’t understand. With that said, your rights and duties
associated with your child are just as important if not more important.
What exactly do I mean by that, though?
You and your spouse or you and your child’s other parent are
conservators of your child. That means that you have a duty to support the child as
well as rights under the law in relation to your child. Among those rights
are the right to determine where your child lives, which doctors and medical
treatment he or she receives, the school he or she attends and the duty
to support the child. There are many more that are listed in the
Texas Family Code but these are among the most important in my opinion.
If you are no longer married to your child’s other parent or were
never married to begin with then under a court order you may share your
rights and duties as parents. An independent right to the child in any
regard allows you to make decisions without first consulting with the
other parent. A jointly held right means that both you and the other parent
must agree on a particular course of action prior to it being undertaken.
Last, either you or the other parent can exclusively hold a right which
means that only you or the other parent by yourselves hold that particular
ability to make a decision for your child. Let’s examine these concepts
a little further in the section below.
Independent Rights as a Conservator
If you and your spouse agree to allow each of you to have the
independent right to do something for your child then it is likely that you all have a decent
relationship with one another. I can make this assumption because making
independent decisions requires a certain level of communication and trust
which is not always in place when a divorce occurs. An example of an independent
right would be allowing both you and your spouse to speak to counselors
or teachers without the other parent present and to make changes to the
child’s educational outlook on your own decision alone.
Jointly held Rights as a Conservator
Jointly held rights mean that you cannot change something without consulting
with and gaining the permission of the other parent. In keeping with our
education based example from the previous paragraph, if you want to enroll
your child in after school tutoring or in a gifted and talented course
you must first have the other parent agree to this change. If you don’t
and go through with the change unilaterally it is possible for you to
wind up in court with a contempt of court charge staring you in the face.
The only risk you run is that the other parent may motion the court to
have exclusive rights in the area where you violated the court’s
order. It could be a lose-lose situation for you.
Jointly held rights basically will force you and your former spouse to co-parent effectively.
If your intention was to divorce your spouse and never relate to them
again, well, that won’t really be an option if you have a child.
The state of Texas wants to encourage parents to work together to parent
their child even if you all are divorced. In the event that it is determined
by a judge that you and your former spouse are completely incapable of
jointly holding a right then it becomes more likely that one of you will
be awarded that
Part two of the Law Office of Bryan Fagan’s discussion on Conservatorship
Please stay tuned for our second and final post on the subject of conservatorship
that will be posted tomorrow. As always if you have questions on this
subject or any other in the field of
family law please do not hesitate to contact the
Law Office of Bryan Fagan. One of our licensed family law attorney would be honored to meet with
you to answer your questions and discuss your particular situation in
a free of charge consultation.