In 2005, the Texas Legislature revised child custody by requiring that the parties or a judge develop a parenting plan to allocate rights and duties. The elements of a parenting plan include who may exercise various parental rights and duties, who will pay child support and whether a parenting coordinator is needed to facilitate co-parenting post-divorce. Parents submit a proposed parenting plan to the court and if accepted, the court will issue a parenting order. Developing a parenting plan can be difficult.
A parenting plan allocates rights and duties between parents, determines child support and admonishes the parents to develop a close relationship with their children. If the parents are likely to have difficulty implementing the parenting plan, a parenting coordinator may be appointed to facilitate cooperation. The parenting coordinator is a neutral appointed by the court to help the parents resolve disputes.
Joint or Sole Managing Conservatorship?
Conservatorship controls the allocation of parental rights and duties. In a joint managing conservatorship, parents share decision making and the parenting plan will state which decisions parents must make together, which decisions they make independently, and which decisions only one parent can make. Joint managing conservatorship is preferred in Texas if the parents can make shared decisions, have a positive relationship with their children, both participate in the children’s upbringing, they live relatively close, and if joint managing conservatorship is in the children’s best interest. In sole managing conservatorship, one parent has the right to make all major decisions, select where the children live and receive child support.
Rights of a Sole Managing Conservator
A sole managing conservator has the exclusive right to decide where the children live, consent to invasive medical or dental procedures, consent to psychiatric or psychological treatment, decide about the children’s education, consent to marriage or enlistment in the armed forces, and the right to receive child support. The sole managing and possessory conservator each have the right to receive information about their children’s health, education and welfare; confer with the other parent before making decisions; access medical dental, educational and psychological records; attend school activities; be designated as an emergency contact and the right to consent to emergency medical treatment.
Rights and Duties of Joint Managing Conservatorship
In a joint managing conservatorship, parental rights and duties can be exclusive to one parent, shared between the parents, or exercised jointly with the consent of the other parent. An exclusive right or duty means that only one parent may exercise the right or carry out the duty. Exclusive rights may require consultation with the other parent or notice, but the parent who enjoys the exclusive right may act without the other parent’s consent. An independent right is one that each parent can exercise alone but may require notice or consultation. A joint right may be exercised only with the agreement of the other parent. In this case, each parent has a “veto” over the action.
Guideline Child Support is based on a parent’s net monthly income capped at $8,550.00 per month. Child support payments are calculated by multiplying net monthly resources by percentages based on the number of children involved: one = 20%; two = 25%, three = 30%; four = 35% and five = 40%. For more than five children child support is not less than 40% of net resources. These percentages are reduced if children from a prior marriage are also receiving support. A court may order child support above the $8,550.00 cap if the extra support is justified by the income of the parties and the needs of the child. Examples include private school tuition, a body guard, a nanny, travel, music lessons, Christmas presents, vacations and special needs of a disabled child.
The goal of a parenting plan is to minimize children’s exposure to parental conflict by allocating parental rights and duties in such a manner that the parents can make constructive decisions for their children. Sometimes, this means one parent makes most of the decisions, while in other plans the parents share most rights and duties.