Doing Your Own Custody and Visitation Documents in the State of Texas

By Marcy Brinkley

Texas law encourages divorcing couples to reach an agreement on child-related issues and document that agreement in a parenting plan. The plan must include provisions for conservatorship, the Texas term for custody, and visitation. In most instances, the plan remains in place until the child reaches the age of 18 or graduates from high school, whichever comes later.

Texas law encourages divorcing couples to reach an agreement on child-related issues and document that agreement in a parenting plan. The plan must include provisions for conservatorship, the Texas term for custody, and visitation. In most instances, the plan remains in place until the child reaches the age of 18 or graduates from high school, whichever comes later.

Process

If you decide to draft an agreed parenting plan, you may negotiate directly with your spouse or you may work with a neutral third party in mediation. Some divorcing couples find it helpful to hire a social worker, mental health specialist or other professional to help them. You may use the standard possession order from the Texas Family Code or come up with your own arrangement. Once you reach an agreement on the issues, prepare and sign the documents and submit them to the judge according to your county's local rules.

Divorce is never easy, but we can help. Learn More

Deadline

The deadline for submitting the parenting plan depends on your county's local rules and whether or not you and your spouse have reached an agreement. Some counties require couples without attorneys to submit an agreed parenting plan to the judge or a volunteer attorney several days before the final hearing, while others ask you to bring the plan to the hearing. If you and your spouse cannot reach an agreement, you may each submit a proposed parenting plan to the judge at least 30 days before trial. In such cases, the judge makes the final decision after hearing evidence from both of you.

Conservatorship

The first decision to make is about conservatorship and whether the child's residence will be restricted to a particular location or not. Typically, both parents are appointed as joint managing conservators with one having the right to decide where the child will live, but both manage major decisions such as the child's education, religious upbringing and education. In some cases, it may be more appropriate for one parent to be appointed the sole managing conservator and the other possessory conservator, having scheduled access to the child. All parents, whether they are managing or possessory conservators, hold an obligation to support a child. Regardless of title, both parents have the right to attend school activities, be listed as emergency contacts at school and receive medical and educational records. All rights and duties, including the duty to pay child support, must be listed in the parenting plan.

Standard Possession

In Texas, both parents have the right to spend time with the child. When drafting your own parenting plan, you may use the detailed standard possession order described in Chapter 153 of the Texas Family Code, if it meets your needs. If the child is older than three years old and lives primarily with his mother, for example, the standard possession order gives the father the right to possession on the first, third and fifth weekends, alternating holidays and vacation periods and on Father's Day. The mother has the right to possession on all other days of the week and alternating holidays as well as on Mother's Day. The standard order also provides alternate possession schedules for children under the age of three and for parents who live more than 100 miles apart.

Customized Possession Order

If the standard possession order is unworkable in your situation, you may agree on a different type of schedule as long as you minimize disruptions to the child's routine, schooling and access to her friends. For example, if the mother works every weekend, the child could live with her during the week and spend weekends with the father or the parents could split the week evenly. In some cases, the child lives with one parent for six months, then moves to the other parent's home for six months. The judge determines if the plan is in the best interest of the child before approving it.

Divorce is never easy, but we can help. Learn More
Texas Family Laws on Child Custody & Visitation

References

Related articles

About Custody Laws in Texas

Texas often has its own way of doing things, and custody issues are no exception. Although the concept of custody itself is much the same everywhere, the legal terminology in this state is different. If you're facing divorce and concerned with its impact on your children, understanding the state's custody laws begins with deciphering its terms.

How to Create a Child Custody Plan

Custody battles can be highly stressful for both parents and children. Creating a custody plan on your own is an excellent way to avoid this stress and ensure the custody plan works well with your lifestyle. Judges and lawyers can't understand your life and children as well as you do, so working together with your spouse to create a custody plan that works can be better for you and your children.

Texas Law Regarding the Joint Custody of a Newborn

When Texas parents divorce, the court splits custody between the parents based on the best interests of the children involved. No two situations are exactly the same, and the best interests of the children can vary according to their ages. Thus, the custody arrangements created for a newborn are typically different from those created for an older child.

Get Divorced Online

Related articles

Out of State Visitation Statutes in Texas

The Texas statutes related to marriage, divorce, child-parent relationships and juvenile justice are contained within ...

Texas Divorce & Custody

The Texas courts leave very little open to interpretation when it comes to child custody. Before divorcing, the law ...

Texas Law on Child Custody Rights

When you’re facing divorce and have children, a logical concern is how this change will affect your rights with ...

Joint Child Custody: How to Create Your Child Visitation Schedule

You have the power to negotiate a visitation schedule that works well for you. If you and your ex-partner agree to ...

Browse by category
Ready to Begin? GET STARTED