Providing Creative Solutions and Meticulous Preparation in all Areas of Law
Shared Parenting Issues? Our Attorneys Can Help with Your Parenting Plan
In many situations, shared parenting can provide benefits for both parents and children after a divorce. In a shared parenting arrangement, each parent has substantially-equal rights with regard to managing and possessory conservatorship (commonly referred to as “custody” and “parenting time”), and the parents are able to maintain open lines of communication to make joint decisions in the best interests of their children.
Information About Shared Parenting in Texas
If you are interested in developing a shared parenting plan as part of your divorce, there are some important things you need to know. First, while Texas law generally favors custody arrangements that allow children to spend meaningful time with both parents, a shared parenting bill died in the Texas legislature in mid-2017. As a result, while shared parenting is an option, it is not as clearly recognized in Texas as it is in some other states.
Second, in order to create and maintain an effective shared parenting relationship, both parents need to be committed to the arrangement. Your custody agreement should be as clear and comprehensive as possible, but you also need to be prepared to deal with unexpected situations as they arise. The means for resolving any parenting-related disagreements can (and generally should) be addressed in custody agreements as well, and you will want to make sure that you and your spouse address all key issues before submitting your agreement to the divorce court for final approval.
Some of the other types of issues a parenting plan lawyer will help parents address when preparing shared parenting agreements include:
- Your Children’s Residence(s) – Where will your child live? In shared parenting cases, it is common for children to split time equally between both parents’ homes. Will this work with your child’s school and afterschool activities? Will your children be able to spend adequate time with their friends, and will they be able to adjust to regularly living in two separate homes?
- Transportation and Related Expenses – Who will be responsible for pick-ups and drop-offs at each parent’s home? What about at school? Will you each cover your own transportation and other child-related expenses? Or, do you need to include specific provisions in your agreement to avoid disagreements down the line?
- Decisions about Extracurricular Activities – If your child wants to participate in an extracurricular activity on an ongoing basis, how will you decide whether to let your child participate? What if one parent’s schedule works with the activity but the other’s does not? Who will cover the costs for participating in the activity (including registration fees, equipment and travel)?
- Travel and Holidays – How will you address vacation travel (i.e. what if one parent wants to take a trip that extends into the other’s parenting time)? How will you divide the holidays?
- Other Decisions Affecting both Parents’ Parenting Time – From Internet access and video games to health care, summer camps and curfews, there are numerous other issues that must be addressed when developing a shared parenting plan as well.
What if You Run into Issues with Your Shared Parenting Arrangement Post-Divorce?
Unfortunately, despite parents’ best efforts and best intentions, sometimes things don’t go according to plan. If you entered into a shared parenting agreement during your divorce and the arrangement isn’t working for you, what options do you have available? Your McKinney custody lawyer can discuss them to ensure you have a full understanding.
In all child custody matters in Texas, the guiding principle is protecting the best interests of the children involved. If your shared parenting arrangement isn’t working for you, then there is a reasonable probability that it isn’t serving your children’s best interests, either. This, combined with the fact that circumstances have clearly changed since your divorce, means that you may be able to go into court and request a post-judgment child custody modification.
Seeking a Post-Judgment Child Custody Modification: By Agreement or By Motion?
Broadly speaking, there are two ways that parents can request modifications to their parenting plans post-divorce: (i) the parents can agree to a proposed modification and submit it to the appropriate court for approval; or, (ii) one parent can file a motion requesting a modification, which the other parent can subsequently contest.
As with a divorce, in most cases negotiating an agreement will be the preferred option. However, sometimes divorced parents simply will not be able to come to terms, and in some cases, they may even be in disagreement with regard to whether a modification is desirable.
Negotiating an Agreed Modification to Your Shared Parenting Plan
The process of negotiating a modified parenting plan is similar to the process of negotiating an original parenting plan during the divorce process.
If you and your former spouse are still willing to work together but have come to the understanding that your shared parenting plan doesn’t work, then you may be able to develop an alternate plan relatively efficiently. If you want to avoid going to court but cannot come to terms independently, then you may choose to pursue mediation or collaborative law. In either case, it is still advisable for both parents to have their own custody lawyer.
Filing a Motion to Request a Modification
If you need to request a modification without your former spouse’s agreement, you will need to hire a McKinney custody lawyer to file a motion with the appropriate court. Depending on the circumstances involved, the judge may schedule a child custody hearing in order to determine what is in your child’s best interests. During this hearing, you and your former spouse will each be able to present evidence in support of your desired parenting arrangement, including evidence such as work and travel schedules, evidence of community ties, and communications (i.e. texts and emails) exchanged during your shared parenting arrangement. After considering all of the evidence, the judge will render a decision based upon Texas’s “best interests” factors.
Avoid Issues with the Court: Do Not Violate the Terms of Your Shared Parenting Arrangement
Critically, if you have run into issues with your shared parenting arrangement, you must stick to the arrangement until a judge grants your request for a modification. Deviating from the arrangement could put you in violation of your divorce order, and this could have severe negative ramifications if your former spouse decides to try to use it against you.
Contact a McKinney Parenting Plan Lawyer at Nordhaus & Nordhaus
If you are interested in learning more about shared parenting, we encourage you to contact us for a free initial consultation. Our attorneys have years of experience representing parents throughout North Texas, and we can help you make informed decisions focused on protecting your children’s best interests. To schedule an appointment, please call our McKinney, TX law offices at (214) 726-1450, or tell us how we can help online and we will be in touch shortly.