When it comes to getting a divorce where there are children involved, there must be no doubt what regarding how rights and duties are divided and shared among the parents. Children’s issues are the most litigated and hotly contested among all those that must be addressed in a divorce. Sometimes, however, parents do agree on some or all of these issues.
When it comes to issues relating to children in a divorce, your Final Decree of Divorce will contain a “Parenting Plan,” which covers in detail the particulars of:
Put simply, conservatorship addresses a parent’s rights regarding his or her children. Possession and access deals with the details of a visitation schedule for the “possessory” parent. And, of course, child support spells out the amount and terms of payment of support for the children. All of these issues are contained with the Parenting Plan in the divorce decree. This will be the most detailed and lengthy portion of your divorce decree.
This is where terminology can be a bit tricky. Many folks use terms such as “full custody,” “sole custody,” “split custody,” “50-50,” “primary custody,” and so on. For starters, when we are talking about custody, we are dealing with conservatorship. Most often, the question comes down to where the children live and spend the majority of their time, and which parent exercises visitation.
There is a presumption that it is in the best interest of the children that both biological parents be named as joint managing conservators of the children. In most cases, you and your spouse will be named joint managing conservators of your children. The policy at the heart of this is the desire to promote meaningful and continuous contact between the children and both parents, as long as each parent can act in the best interest of the children.
Aside from the actual time a parent has with the children, the legal rights and duties each have with them is also spelled out. If you and your spouse are named joint managing conservators, you will share in the rights and duties associated with your children. These are the rights that are really at the heart of being a parent.
More terminology. Under this joint custody scenario, one parent will be awarded exclusive rights. This parent is referred to colloquially as having “primary” custody. This parent will be named as the conservator with the exclusive right to designate the primary residence of the children. And so the children will live “primarily” with this parent, while the other parent will exercise visitation as the “possessory” parent. The possessory conservator’s possession and access is spelled out in the final decree of divorce.
As far as the rest of the rights and duties are concerned, they are mostly shared equally between you and your spouse. These rights and duties include powers regarding educational and medical decision making and others.
All of these bundles of rights and duties, including child support, last until the children reach the age of eighteen or graduate high school, whichever of those occurs last. This time may be extended by a court if it is shown that a child has a disability or handicap preventing the child from supporting himself or herself.
If you have any questions about parenting plans in a divorce, please contact us for a free consultation.