Parents in Texas who are going through a divorce may have a certain degree of animosity towards one another. However, some of them are willing to put their negative feelings behind them and work together with their ex to negotiate a parenting plan out of court. This may be in the best interests of the child, as the child's parents know the child's needs best. Also, establishing a parenting plan out of court establishes the groundwork for future communication and cooperation -- two things that parents will face as they parent separately after the divorce.
However, if parents create a parenting plan out of court, it must be filed with the court to become legally enforceable. Moreover, once a parenting plan is filed, the court will only order the parents to share joint managing conservatorship if certain elements are present in the parenting plan per Texas Statutes section 153.133.
First, the parenting plan needs to state which conservator will have the exclusive right to determine where the child will live, and it must include provisions regarding either the geographic area in which the child will live or establish provisions that one parent can decide where the child will live regardless of the geographic area.
Second, the parenting plan needs to state each parent's rights and duties concerning the physical care of the child, including the support of the child and what the parent's rights and duties are regarding the child's schooling. Third, the parenting plan must contain language that the child's schooling, day-to-day activities and friendships will be disturbed as little as possible.
Fourth, the parenting plan must state which parent (or both) will enjoy the rights and duties set out in state statutes, such as the right to physical possession of the child and the duty to provide support to the child, among others. Fifth, each parent must have voluntarily and knowingly entered into the parenting plan. Finally, the parenting plan needs to meet the child's best interests.
As this shows, creating a parenting plan that is legally enforceable can be complex. Therefore, parents may not want to handle such matters alone. Fortunately, family law attorneys are available to help Texas parents who wish to create a parenting plan out of court.