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The Secrets to Creating Successful Texas Parenting Plans

When it comes to parenting, I am here to support any parent who may believe it is hard to have a plan at all. My wife and I have four small children and we would be the first to tell you that having a plan when it comes to raising your children is a challenge. Plans are great, but then kids have a way of changing the plan. Kids get sick, kids start a new school, and parents start a new job. The list goes on and on. What you thought was reasonable as far as a plan is concerned suddenly becomes unreasonable when new circumstances come to the forefront.

Navigating Co-Parenting After Divorce: Challenges and Solutions

I say all this knowing that my wife and I live in the same house. Now put yourself back in your situation. You may be going through a divorce or child custody case where you and your co-parent are going to need to figure out how to create a parenting plan which can care for your child and bring you and your co-parent together as parents. This is hard on multiple levels. Not the least of which is you may have just gone through a divorce and are now needing to think about how to bridge the gap between you and your co-parent. Not exactly a fun idea to contemplate nor the most practical.

This is your mission if you choose to accept it. You need to think about how you can create a parenting plan that is in the best interests of your child, promotes their long-term growth and development, and brings together you and your co-parent so that the two of you can act as a cohesive parenting unit. That the two of you may have, frankly, never been a cohesive parenting unit before is yet another challenge for the two of you to take on.

With that said, we are going to help you learn more about a parenting plan in a Texas family law case. What are the essential pieces of information that you must know to move forward with a case? What factors or circumstances do you need to consider before settling on a specific plan? Those are some of the questions that we are going to cover in today’s blog post.

Creating a Successful Parenting Plan with Your Co-Parent

On top of that, we are not going to leave you hanging when it comes to figuring out how to get along with your co-parent well enough to create a great parenting plan for your child. If you are coming out of a divorce, then these tips may be instrumental for you. Sometimes it is just a matter of changing your outlook and perspective to become a better or at least a willing co-parent. That is something we will cover at the end of today’s blog post.

Any questions or concerns that you may have regarding the information that we have written about today can be addressed by one of the experienced family law attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. We take nothing for granted when it comes to helping our community. Come talk to us today about your parenting plan questions. A free-of-charge consultation is just a phone call away. You may be able to help yourself more than you realize. Simple questions about the world of Texas family law or complex issues that need another person’s perspective- we can help you with both in these consultations.

The Standard Possession Order as the foundation for a parenting plan

The bedrock, the foundation for a Texas parenting plan is the Standard Possession Order, or SPO for short. The SPO is so highly thought of that it is included in the Texas Family Code. It gives parents just like you and your co-parent marching orders for how to structure their lives and that of your child. The SPO contains basic provisions for how to divide up your time between your life and your children. Let’s walk through a basic overview of the SPO so you can have a better idea about what a possession or visitation schedule may end up looking like in your situation.

Either you or your co-parent will have visitation rights to your child. This is the parent with whom your child does not live during the school week. The parent with visitation rights would have your child under an SPO on the first, third, and fifth weekends of each month during the school year from 6:00 pm on Friday until 6:00 pm on Sunday. During periods which do not involve holidays or school-designated off days the other parent would have possession. Holidays are split down the middle, essentially. Summer vacation allows the parent with visitation rights to have an extended period (usually thirty) days of consecutive days with the child. The other parent can designate one weekend during that thirty-day period to spend with the child.

Benefits of Proximity in Co-Parenting

These arrangements are based on a situation where you and your co-parent live within fifty miles of one another. I will go out on a limb and assume that almost everyone reading this blog post finds themselves in a situation where this is true. The reason why living close to your co-parent is so important is that it offers many logistical advantages. For instance, consider a situation where you and your co-parent live a long way apart. You live in Galveston and your co-parent lives in Cypress. That’s a tough drive. Technically you live in the same metropolitan area, but anyone who lives in Houston can tell you that Cypress and Galveston are worlds apart in many ways- specifically in distance.

The closer that you and your co-parent can live from one another you give each other so much more leeway if unforeseen incidents happen which can impact your life and that of your children. Who among us hasn’t had to work late without much advance notice? If this happened on a Friday, you would be putting your co-parent in a position where she had to get the kids ready and then wait on you to come pick them up. Or she may need to hustle to prepare a meal for them when otherwise you would be the one getting them and feeding them dinner.

Minimizing Co-Parenting Challenges with Proximity

If you live close to your co-parent you can minimize the “damage” done to your weekend with the kids and your co-parent’s schedule. However, if you live and work in Galveston and then had to drive the distance up to Cypress or any of the suburbs of Houston north of I-10 you are putting everyone in a bind. It’s not your fault but it is what it is. For this reason, there are different possession orders which apply for parents who live from 51-100 miles apart as well as for parents who live 100 miles or more apart.

For parents who live more than fifty miles apart, the sort of possession plans that we just finished discussing may not work very well. If you and your co-parent find yourself in this type of situation, then you may consider having extended periods of possession where the exchanges occur less frequently. This can minimize disruption to the child’s schedule and to your own. However, if you are the parent who does not live by your child’s school this may involve a great deal more time in the car than you otherwise would have preferred. For some families, this is an ok tradeoff. However, if you or your child are balking at the idea of driving this far then you may try to move to be closer distance-wise from your co-parent so that you can potentially modify your parenting plan.

Make sure that your co-parent can get a hold of you when necessary

I would like to say that the parenting plan that you and your co-parent create in your divorce or child custody case is going to stand the test of time and never encounter any difficulties as far as making the possession schedule work. However, this would be untrue. Your family is going to run into changes that could stand to upend your parenting plan. What can you do about that?

The most practical information which I can provide you with at this time is to consider that you and your co-parent should be able to communicate with each other easily about changes in your schedule or issues that arise. This is especially true about coordinating your schedules about changes that need to occur in a parenting plan possession schedule. If you do not make it easy for your co-parent to reach you that makes life difficult for your co-parent, you, and your children.

Look through your court order and determine the requirements for making sure that your co-parent has your most up-to-date contact information. This means your telephone number, address, email address, and things of this nature. The tendency after a child custody or divorce case is to hide from your co-parent because you are just sick and tired of having to deal with them. This is understandable but is not the best approach if you want to be able to co-parent effectively. If you can help, ensure that your co-parent can reach you in an emergency or in a situation where you need help then your co-parent is more likely to reciprocate and give you the same courtesy.

How are the decision-making responsibilities divided?

So far in today’s blog post, we have been discussing issues related to possession and visitation. Now I would like to shift gears and talk more about rights and duties under a parenting plan. More specifically, I want to be able to help you create a plan on how to share the rights to make decisions for your children and the duty to care for your children in various ways. These rights and duties fall under the category of conservatorship. If you look in a sample child custody order you will find a parenting plan and conservatorship section for your review. Parents hold rights concerning their children as a team. Here is some basic information that you need to know about conservatorships concerning your children.

The default setting in a child custody situation is that parents should be named as joint managing conservators. This means that you and your co-parent would share rights and duties concerning your children in an even fashion. Some of these rights would be held independently of your co-parent, meaning that you could exercise them on your own without first consulting with your co-parent. Next, you may have some exclusive rights to your children as far as being the only parent who can make certain decisions. Finally, there are jointly held rights that you and your co-parent hold together.

Put the best interests of your children before your own

The difficulties associated with crafting a parenting plan for your children stem in large part from not being able to set aside your differences with your co-parent and do what is best for your children. In general, parents who find themselves going through a family law case are not on the best of terms with their co-parents. It could be a challenge for you and your co-parent to be able to figure out the best parenting plan for your children especially if you may have trouble with being able to work together on complex issues like we have encountered today in this blog post.

However, I think that parents can sometimes benefit from remembering that this is not a contract for you and your co-parent to use to try and get the better of the other person. Rather, this is a plan which you and your co-parent need to be able to use to bring about the best possible parenting environment for your children. Negotiating the complex issues associated with a child custody and divorce case can frequently put you in the mindset of having to “win” on these issues.

Creating a parenting plan which stands to be in the best interest of your children is not about winning or losing. Rather, it’s about setting up guardrails and conditions which give your child the best possible opportunity to flourish. How you define success when creating a parenting plan is up to you and your co-parent. However, if you can honestly say that you set aside your differences and did what was best for your children in negotiating this parenting plan then the two of you will be off to a good start.

Tips on how to effectively co-parent

Communication is key when it comes to co-parenting. If you and your child’s other parent can commit to always speaking with one another respectfully then a lot of the problems that parents in your situation encounter can be avoided. It is just a simpler situation to find yourselves in a position where you can talk to your co-parent respectfully rather than having to scratch and claw to get in a word during a conversation. While you may not always want to hear what the other person is saying it is impossible to have a conversation without actively listening and considering what that person has to say. Choosing to shut down the lines of communication means that you are essentially choosing to shut down the ability to co-parent.

Anticipating and Addressing Changes in Your Parenting Plan

As we have already covered in this blog post, there will come a time that your parenting plan will need to be adjusted for whatever reason. Usually, if you follow our first tip and keep the lines of communication open between you and your co-parent then you will have already solved a lot of the issues that can come up when schedules conflict or logistical issues arise. To finish off this particular tidbit of wisdom I would only tell you that it is a good idea to go into these types of scenarios with your co-parent having an open mind. The less inflexible you are when it comes to adjusting your plans when needed the better off you, your children, and your co-parent will be. You may even be able to anticipate certain challenges before they arise so that you can better prepare for them in the future.

The last thing that we will mention in today’s blog post is that some issues which you may encounter may require more work than others to find a solution to. In those types of scenarios, it is recommended that you work with an experienced family law attorney who not only understands the intricacies of a parenting plan but how to negotiate with your co-parent on reaching your goals and maintaining the primary focus on your children.

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Frequently Asked Questions about Parenting Plans in Texas

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