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Austin Texas Family Law Blog

What should you include in your parenting plan?

As part of your custody agreement that designates how you and your co-parent will share custody of your children, it's important to draw up a parenting plan. This plan will provide more detail about how the two of you will deal with various parenting issues as your children grow up.

A well-written parenting plan can minimize confusion and conflict because it gives you a document that outlines expectations for both of you as you parent across two households. Parenting plans can be as detailed as you choose. They can be used to address a multitude of topics.

Proposed legislation could help Texas grandparents get visitation

The bond between grandparents and grandchildren can be a strong one. However, when parents divorce, grandparents sometimes find themselves cut out of their grandchildren's lives. Their former son- or daughter-in-law may have primary custody of the kids and not want them to be around their ex-spouse's parents. Sometimes their own child may not make the effort to let them see their grandkids (or may not want them to).

Under current Texas law, a grandparent can only successfully sue for visitation if at least one of the children's parents is deceased, in prison, not mentally competent or is estranged from the child. Even then, a grandparent who wants to see their grandchildren must provide expert testimony that being kept from their grandparents is harmful to the child's physical or mental well-being. That can be a difficult case to make.

Parents talk about their inability to stop custodial interference

Sadly, some divorced parents refuse to abide by the terms of their child custody agreement. They deny their co-parent the access to their children that they're entitled to. Custodial interference is more than a violation of a custody order. Here in Texas, it can also be a felony.

Despite that, some parents say law enforcement agencies and prosecutors do little. One father says, "Interference happens in plain view of uniformed officers, but they won't make an arrest because they know the D.A. won't do anything with it. It's a waste of time."

How can you address spring break and school vacation custody?

Some of the best aspects of being a parent are making memories with your child. While any day can be a special day with the right planning and attitude, there are certain times of year where your family is more likely to create memories that have a lasting impact.

Both spring break and summer vacation are critical rest times for children. They are often also filled with family trips or bonding experiences. Although planning for vacation may be the farthest thing from your mind during your divorce negotiations, it really is something you need to address in your parenting plan.

Your kids' school calendar and your parenting time schedule

If you and your co-parent are in the process of working out your child custody agreement, you're likely determining how the kids will be dividing their time or spending alternate years with each of you around major holidays like Christmas and Thanksgiving as well as during spring and vacations. However, there are a lot of other times during the school year where your kids will have a half-day or full day off that you might not be considering.

Don't forget the other holidays that your local schools may celebrate, like Presidents' Day, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, Labor Day and Veterans Day. Likely, there are also days off on the school calendar for teachers' workshops and parent-teacher meetings. Some may just be half-days off. It's a good idea to download the calendars for your kids' schools and use those as you plan.

Child exchange options when co-parents can not be around each other

Among the most crucial details to work out as you and your co-parent negotiate your custody agreement is how to handle the exchanges of your children. If you will continue to live near each other and share custody, these exchanges may be frequent.

It's essential for the children's well-being that you determine in advance who is responsible for taking the kids between their homes. Otherwise, there can be confusion and conflict every time there's an exchange. This can cause added stress and insecurity for kids.

Why should newlywed students have prenuptial agreements?

Many people meet their future spouses in college or graduate school. If they decide to marry while they're still completing their education or soon after graduation, they may see no need for a prenuptial agreement. They likely have few assets and may be deeply mired in student loan debt. How can they put themselves in a mindset where they're thinking about who will get which homes, boats, artwork, bank accounts and all the other things they don't have (and perhaps never will) if the marriage ends?

One attorney explains that her job is to help clients minimize their risk in a worst-case scenario (like the marriage ending). This requires looking into the future. At some point, that student loan debt will be behind you. You may have a thriving medical practice that you built from the ground up or your spouse may own a successful multinational company thanks to an idea they had and developed. If you remain in Texas, which is a community property state, you would each have the right to receive an equal share of the assets accumulated from that hard work and ingenuity unless you have a prenup in place.

Is your marriage headed straight toward divorce court?

Every year across the state of Texas, individuals who thought they were marrying someone they would be with for the rest of their lives find themselves stuck in divorce court. People change as they grow, and life circumstances can exert extreme pressure on once stable and happy relationships.

It is admirable and beautiful to want to fight to save your marriage, provided that it is possible to save it. Some couples may find that executing a postnuptial agreement can help them overcome issues and refocus their marriage on the things that matter the most.

Why parents should seek a 'right of first refusal' clause

If you'll be sharing custody of your children with your co-parent, you likely want every additional opportunity to spend time with them that you can get -- especially if you're going to be the noncustodial parent. If so, or even if you just want to minimize the amount of time your kids spend with other caregivers, you should consider seeking a "right of first refusal" provision in your custody agreement.

A right of first refusal provision stipulates that before a parent can ask a relative, babysitter or another person to care for a child (or take them to a day care facility), they must give their co-parent the chance to take the child during the time they'll be unable to care for them.

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