If you have chosen a career path as a police officer, then you know a thing or two about sacrifice. The decision to base your life around serving others is a noble and praiseworthy choice. Not every person is cut out for the responsibilities, difficulties, and challenges of being a police officer. Suppose you have chosen to Be a police officer while raising a family, then the challenges in both areas of your life are magnified. In and of itself, raising a family is difficult. In and of itself, being a police officer is difficult. Combine the two, and you have challenges that most of us never cap to consider in our daily lives.
The spouse of a police officer also faces the same challenges that a police officer faces in a marriage. If your spouse is a police officer, understanding the ins and outs of the divorce process is essential. Police officers are treated just like anyone else in the divorce process. It is not as if police officers are given preferential treatment during a divorce. Some people assume that because police officers hold such a high place of esteem in our culture and society, they receive better treatment from family court judges. However, that is not the case.
Family law cases are incredibly fact-specific. This means that while the Texas family code will play a role in the ultimate decision making in your case, you should also expect that family court judges would make decisions based on these circumstances of your case and these situations that you and your spouse find yourself in. Since different judges can have different viewpoints, the result of a case can be very different. Suppose you allow your chance to reach a judge. Otherwise, you and your police officer spouse will have the final say in determining how your divorce will come to an end.
Police Officer Pension
One of the concerns you may have is regarding the police officers’ pension that your spouse receives. It is a defined benefit plan which means that a specific amount of money is provided to your spouse at their retirement from the police force. Typically, this follows the need to serve the community for a certain number of years as an active duty member of the police force. You and your attorney should verify whether your spouse qualifies for this benefit or if you and your spouse need to be married for a certain number of years to be eligible for benefits.
Community property is divisible in a Texas divorce. The portion of the pension acquired during the marriage would be separable in the divorce, assuming that you are eligible to receive it as a function of any requirements set forth by the police force. The analysis will need to be performed by someone who oversees the pension benefit for the law enforcement body for whom your spouse works.
A qualified domestic relations order (QDRO) will need to be drafted after your divorce to have those benefits flow to you without any penalty. This document will need to be prepared based on the specific language required depending upon the plan administration. Your attorney should contact the law enforcement body and find out what language needs to be included to divide the money correctly after your divorce. You do not want to put yourself in a position where you complete your divorce but cannot gain access to the funds provided to you in the divorce. It is difficult to re-open a divorce once the case has been finalized.
Child custody issues within a police officer divorce
Regarding child custody topics in a police officer divorce, the Texas family code sets forth the same standards for you and your spouse as it does for any other set of married people going through the divorce process with children. Your child’s best interests will be considered, and a judge will make decisions according to the best interests of your child based on the specific needs of your children and your family circumstances. I think this is an important topic to consider so we can walk through some of the events that may be relevant in your family’s life and how they may play out regarding a child custody determination.
For one, the work schedule of your police officer spouse would need to be considered. Regarding conservatorships roles for parents and divorce, one parent would have visitation rights, and the other parent would have the right to determine the children’s primary residence. The decision about which parents should have the right to determine the children’s primary residence should be based on the role that each parent has played in the life of the child to that point, as well as the best interests of the children. If you have typically been the parent who takes the children to school, the doctor’s office, and extracurricular activities, you would likely be named the children’s primary conservator in the divorce case.
Another factor that ought to be considered is the work schedule of your police officer spouse. Police officers typically work schedules on shift for long periods and then off change for another lengthy period; even then, your spouse may be called into work if additional offices are needed for a particular purpose or cause. For that reason, with extended hours and an unpredictable schedule, your spouse may not be well suited to act as a primary conservator of your children.
Additionally, you and your spouse may need to get creative when working on a possession schedule for your children. Often, a parent who does not have primary custody of the children will be assigned a standard possession order. A regular possession order means that your spouse would have Possession of the children on the first, 3rd, and 5th weekends of each month. Visitation time during the summer will be extended in holiday visitation will be split each year equally. This is what most families encounter during a Texas divorce.
However, your spouse likely does not have a work schedule that allows you to consider these types of circumstances and allow people to possess their children on a set schedule like everybody else. This is not a significant issue, but it requires you and your spouse to work together to develop a flexible yet predictable schedule for all parties involved. Not only do you need to know what your plan looks like on a week to week and month to month basis, but your children need to know that they are going to be able to have a relationship with both of their parents despite the divorce.
Again, your family’s circumstances are significant when determining a possession schedule in a police officer’s divorce. I don’t want to take up time in space in this blog post speculating as to what your spouse’s work schedule may be. You should and could work with an experienced family law attorney to help you determine what the best type of possession schedule is based on your family’s needs and the work schedule that you all have. Several factors will come into play and help to determine how a custody schedule either does or does not work well for your family.
I would first consider the age of your children. Younger children may withstand more frequent back and forth between their parents’ homes more readily than older children. Younger children have less gone on typically in terms of extracurricular activities in school responsibilities. More youthful children also wake up more accessible in the morning. They are more agreeable to getting into a vehicle and going back and forth between parents on a more regular basis. Therefore, if you have younger school-aged children or preschool-aged children, they may be able to handle more frequent changes in Possession during the week.
On the other hand, the older your children are, the less likely they would be to tolerate frequent changes in Possession and going back and forth between the homes of you and your spouse. It is more likely that these older children have school, work, and extracurricular responsibilities that make it so they would not be as agreeable to Bing shuffled back and forth between mom and dad. It is likely that they also have friends and other interests that put them outside the house more regularly. For older children, you may be more interested in allowing them to have extended times with their other parents and extended times with you.
Of course, this entire discussion hinges upon the location of your home relative to your spouse’s home. Many times, spouses have little choice but to live far apart from one another after a divorce. For instance, if you and your spouse lived together in The Woodlands when you were married, but your spouse works for the Harris County Sheriff’s Department, he may choose to move closer to work. So, if he ends up living in Cypress and you still live in The Woodlands, that means you have a 30-minute drive at least both ways to contend with when it comes to dropping off and picking up children.
The logistical challenges of living in a big city like Houston make it so you and your family need to work together to develop a possession schedule that works based on the specific circumstances that here family has. Simply assuming that the travel schedules will work once you put them into practice does not serve your family well. Specifically, suppose you create a detailed and finetuned possession schedule and mediation. In that case, you need to think about how their travel, logistics, and time commitments will factor into this discussion. Just because something looks good on paper and would work in theory does not mean it will. Instead, you need to be practical and assume that travel will not be as easy for your family as you may be considering.
It may even make sense for you to insert a geographic restriction into your final decree of divorce. A geographic restriction serves several purposes. The first purpose would be to allow the non-primary parent to ensure that they will be able to stay close to their children no matter what you as the primary parent decide to do in terms of where you live. Imagine a situation where you are the immediate parent of your children, and the kids live with you full time. If you decided to, theoretically, you could choose to move with the children every couple of years. This would put your spouse in a situation where he would have to move along with you based on whatever desires you have, period.
A geographic restriction would force you to reside with the children within a particular geographic area. Many people choose Harris County in any contiguous county that borders on Harris. I have seen people choose Harris County and Montgomery County as the only counties where the children can live. Still, other parents have liked a particular school district and have limited the geographic area to live to that specific district. Whatever you and your family decide to do, you should think about your family’s needs both now and in the future. If you have very young children at home, it may well be that your family’s needs change overtime period; on the other hand, if your children are teenagers, then you all only have to live with the terms of your order for short.
Suppose you are the police officer in this marriage. In that case, you may want to have a geographic restriction enclosed within your family court orders to ensure that your ex-spouse does not leave with the children if you have been with a particular law enforcement body for an extended period. You likely would not want to move and risk losing the benefits and seniority accumulated during your time working for that group. As a result, preventing your ex-spouse from leaving the Houston area is probably something you want to provide for as much as possible.
The next thing that you need to consider is where you will live after the divorce. If we assume that you are the spouse who will be moving out of the home, then you need to decide where you want to live full time after the case is over. Many law enforcement officers choose not to live in the area they work in. For example, if you are a Houston police officer, you may choose to live in one of the suburbs in Harris County or even in Montgomery or Fort Bend County.
While there is nothing wrong with this, it can add difficulties to choosing where your children will live. For all parties, it would make sense for you to live close to your ex-spouse to make transportation and logistics easier for your children. It would also make it simpler for you to pick the children up or drop them off at a moment’s notice depending upon the changing nature of your work schedule.
Another factor to consider is that while the geographic restriction protects you as a non-primary parent, it is a double-edged sword. For example, if you put a geographic restriction into place and decide to move outside that geographic area, this could be disastrous for you. This is the case because your spouse can do the same thing if you move out of the restricted geographic area. This puts you in a position where you may have to follow them around based on the changes in their own life so that you can be close to your children. The bottom line is that while the geographic restriction protects you as a police officer, it can also be used against you if you choose to live outside that area. You should consider all these issues while the divorce is going on. Do not assume that you can go back and amend the divorce decree later on if circumstances change.
Questions about the material contained in today’s blog post? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan
If you have any questions about the material contained in today’s blog post, please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. Our licensed family law attorneys offer free of charge consultations six days a week in person, over the phone, and via video. These consultations are an excellent way for you to learn more about the world of Texas family law and how your family circumstances may be impacted by the filing of a divorce or child custody case.
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Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC | Spring Divorce Lawyers
The Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC, routinely handles matters that affect children and families. If you have questions regarding divorce, it’s essential to speak with one of our Spring, TX Divorce Lawyers right away to protect your rights.
Our divorce lawyers in Spring, TX, are skilled at listening to your goals during this trying process and developing a strategy to meet those goals. Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC by calling (281) 810-9760 or submit your contact information in our online form. The Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC, handles Divorce cases in Spring, Texas, Cypress, Spring, Klein, Humble, Kingwood, Tomball, The Woodlands, the FM 1960 area, or surrounding areas, including Harris County, Montgomery County, Liberty County, Chambers County, Galveston County, Brazoria County, Fort Bend County, and Waller County.