If you are about to go through the divorce process, you may understandably be worried about your finances and which assets you will end up taking with you. However, if you are the parent of a young child, who will end up with custody of the child is likely an even bigger concern for you.
Fortunately, most couples dealing with child custody in Texas can handle the situation before going to trial. This is possible in your case, too, if you and your soon-to-be ex-spouse are willing to work together on a parenting plan that addresses the custody of your child following your marital breakup.
A glimpse at parenting agreements
A parenting agreement is essentially a contract in which you and the other party spell out how you will deal with visitation and child custody following your divorce. You can make these decisions during informal negotiations or divorce mediation, thus avoiding further court intrusion. The written parenting agreement that results from these out-of-court processes is also known as a settlement agreement or custody agreement.
A look at what your parenting agreement should contain
Parenting agreements can vary from couple to couple, as no two child custody situations are alike. However, as a general rule of thumb, these legal agreements feature the following key information:
- Visitation schedule
- Whether you or the other party will have physical custody of the child (your child will reside with this person)
- Who will receive legal custody of the child (this person will make decisions regarding the child's welfare and upbringing)
- Where your child will go during birthdays, holidays and vacations
- When and how the child will get to see family-friends or grandparents
- How you and your future ex will handle disputes related to your parenting agreement
You can also explain in your agreement how you and the other party will go about making changes to the agreement as needed, as your life situations change.
You need the court to approve your agreement
Once you and the other party have come to an agreement on the above information and spelled it out in writing, you must submit your agreement to the family law court for approval. During a hearing, a judge will likely ask you some basic questions and see if you both signed the agreement voluntarily. If the judge believes that your agreement does not unfairly favor one parent over the other, he or she will most likely have no problem approving it in Texas.