Examining the Rights and Duties of Texas Parents

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:

  1. Conservatorship
  2. Possession and Access
  3. 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 right exclusively.

Part two of the Law Office of Bryan Fagan’s discussion on Conservatorship coming tomorrow

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.

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