You are just beginning the divorce process, and one part of you cannot wait to make a new life for yourself without your future ex-spouse. However, the other part of you is worried about who will end up getting custody of your child.
The great news is that many divorcing parents in Texas and other states resolve child custody conflicts without having to go to court. They do this by putting together mutually satisfactory parenting plans.
What is a parenting plan?
This type of plan is an agreement in which parents can finalize their issues concerning child custody as well as visitation. You and the other party can put together a parenting plan during informal negotiations or through a process known as mediation, which is an alternative dispute resolution process. Using either of these processes can be a lot less stressful than going to trial to have a judge make a child custody determination for you.
What should you include in your parenting plan?
Parenting plans differ among divorcing couples based on their unique desires and needs. However, these plans typically feature the following information:
- The way both parties will tackle disputes or changes related to your parenting plan
- How and when your child will get to see his or her grandparents or your family friends
- Where the child will spend the holidays or his or her birthday each year
- Who can make decisions regarding the child's upbringing (who gets legal custody)
- Where the child will reside (who gets physical custody)
In your parenting plan, you can also spell out a visitation schedule for the parent who ends up not receiving primary custody of the child.
Getting court approval for the parenting plan
Once both you and the other party have drafted a parenting plan, you can submit it to the court for a judge's approval. The judge may ask you a few questions about the agreement. For example, did you understand what you were signing, and did you sign it voluntarily?
If the judge believes that the plan is fair, he or she will likely approve it with no issues. An attorney can guide you through the process of creating a plan with your future ex that meets your needs and most importantly considers the best interests of your child long term.