For parents who have just gone through a stressful family law case, the most worthwhile experience in the entire process is likely to be establishing a possession schedule for your child. After a great deal of negotiation and the possibility of a trial having a firm idea about what your life is going to look like in terms of your time with the kids is crucial to your and your child’s well-being. With that certainty, you can move forward and begin to plan for your life after the family law case’s conclusion.
This possession schedule can be complicated if you and your co-parent live more than one hundred miles apart. Admittedly, this does not happen all that much. For the most part after a divorce, for example, you and your co-parent will live separately but not that far apart. However, you or your co-parent may move to follow a job or for another reason. I have seen people move to care for a parent who is elderly. Whatever your situation is, let’s assume that you are a parent who lives more than 100 miles from the children and your co-parent.
When we talk about a Standard Possession Order, the hallmark of this type of Order that may be established because of your custody or divorce case is possession of your child on the first, third and fifth weekend of each month. For some people, this may still work OK even if you live 100 miles from your children. For example, if your children live in Galveston and you live in Conroe then that may be a drive that you don’t mind making every other week to maximize your time with the kids. As such, there may be no issue (for now) with you maintaining a typical SPO visitation schedule.
However, the situation becomes a bit tougher when we consider that you may move further away than Conroe to Galveston. Imagine a situation where you moved to Dallas to care for your ailing mother. It was a tough decision to move so far from your kids, but your mother was in failing health with nobody to care for her. You moved to Dallas, found a job, and are happy living there. However, you still want to maximize your time with the kids that still live in the Houston area.
Weekend visitation across such a great distance probably is not practical. True, people make bi-weekly drives between the cities all the time but doing it consistently month after a month probably wouldn’t work. Consider that kids get sick, adults get sick, cars break down, etc. and you are in a situation where it may not be in your best interest or the kids to negotiate. I have had a client who was a licensed pilot who seriously went into the child custody case with the idea that he would file into Houston, pick up his kids and fly them back to Dallas each weekend. This could work! But don’t bet on it.
How do parents make visitation work when they live more than 100 miles apart?
In most situations, you as the nonpossessory parent (noncustodial) would have the ability to pick one weekend of possession per month to have possession of your kids. To take advantage of this weekend possession you would need to provide your co-parent with at least fourteen days’ worth of notice in most cases.
The trade-off for having less time during the school year is that you would have more time with your child during the other times of the year. Spring Break is typically alternated between parents under a standard possession order if they live within 100 miles of one another. However, if you reside more than 100 miles from your co-parent then you would get Spring Break possession of your children every year. Summer Vacation is impacted, as well. You would get 42 days of possession in the summer instead of thirty days of possession as in a situation where you and your co-parent live within 100 miles of one another.
What are other options available to a family court judge when it comes to possession orders?
Family court judges look favorably upon the Standard Possession Order, but they may also decide to issue a decision that involves a different possession schedule. There are individual circumstances that may exist in your case that require an alternative plan to be considered. The type of situations that may lead a judge to issue a different ruling on possession can be extremely diverse. Please contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan to discuss why this may be and if it may apply to your case.
Expanded Standard Possession Order
An Expanded Standard Possession Order looks like an SPO, but it offers the noncustodial parent an extra two nights of possession each week during the school year. As I am sure you can imagine, this type of possession schedule looks better when you and your co-parent live close together. Shuttling kids between parents’ homes each week multiple times can be cumbersome if you all do not live close together. Remember- your possession schedule needs to be in the best interest of the kids first and foremost.
To begin with, an extended possession order is just like this standard possession order except that the weekend visitation period begins with your child getting out of school on Friday instead of at 6:00 PM. Therefore, you would need to be available to pick up your child from school. Possession of your child would end when school begins on Monday morning. Again, this is different than dropping your child off at Your Co-parents’ house on the Sunday evening before school begins.
Probably the main benefit to being able to have an extended standard possession order is your visitation. During the Week under a standard possession order, you would be able to have a short period of possession with your children from 6:00 to 8:00 PM. This amounts to an opportunity for you to have dinner with your child and then take them home before school the next day. However, under an extended standard possession order, your purity of possession is stretched out significantly. You would be able to pick your child up from school on Thursday and then would take your child back to school on Friday. Mother candy having an extra overnight visit during the week is important especially when the following weekend is not your weekend for possession of your children.
The other difference between an extended standard possession order and a standard possession order is that for holiday visitation your period of possession would begin when school lets out. This would mean that if you had Thanksgiving break with your children you would be able to pick your child up from school and then take him or her back to school on the Monday following Thanksgiving.
What about split custody?
in working with families just like yours across Southeast Texas one of the most frequently stated goals for a case is to be able to have split custody of children with a Co-parent. Much of the time this is done at the beginning of the case when attitudes are more based on theory than anything else. However, after sitting down with your experienced family law turning you may still have the opinion that split custody with your Co-parent is what is best for your child. It may also be the case that you and your Co-parent are willing to set aside any differences that you might have when it comes to raising your child. This is, of course, important given that you likely would not be in this situation if the two of you were willing and able to set aside differences regarding your children.
If your goal is to establish split custody for you and your Co-parent regarding your children, then you are better off trying to do so through negotiation. However, it can happen that a family court judge orders split custody in your case or otherwise determines that a child should split time in an even fashion between the parents. here is what that would mean for you and your family were split custody to be implemented in your situation.
We have been using terms like custodial parent and non-custodial parent in today’s blog post. However, if you and your co-parent gain split custody of your children then terms like custodial and non-custodial parent become somewhat irrelevant. The reason for this is that neither one of you will have the right to designate a primary residence for your child. It is also possible that child support is not paid from one parent to the other or a relatively small amount of child support may be paid to cover differences in your income.
Akita this discussion is being able to show a family court judge that you and your Co-parent have been able to manage split custody during your case. If you all can show that you work together well, set aside your differences with these, and there willing to put the interests of your children before yourselves then it is much more likely that a family court judge will allow for split custody after a child. The most important thing is showing the ability to a judge by giving him or her the confidence that making this kind of order would be in the best interest of your children.
Beyond Being able to show a family court judge that you and your Co-parent can raise a child in a cooperative environment you also have to show that doing so is in the best interests of your child. What family courts have believed for some time is that split custody situation are often in the best interests of parents but not always in the best interests of the kids. However, depending upon the circumstances of your children and your family this may be a plan that works out well for all parties.
As we have talked about in today’s blog posts, the reality of the situation is that if you want your parenting plan to center around split custody then you are better off trying to negotiate for it with your co-parent rather than waiting on a family court judge to order it. This means that you can work with your co-parent from the beginning of your case to arrive at a settlement on this important issue. If you can successfully do so then this opens up the rest of your time to be able to work through other important issues that may be more difficult for you all to negotiate through.
When it comes to difficult subject matter associated with family law cases it is always best to be represented by an attorney who has worked with families like yours. Even if you and your co-parent see eye to eye on the issue of split custody that doesn’t mean that the two of you have the sort of expertise needed to think up a parenting plan or possession schedule that takes into consideration all the needs of your family and does so in a way that splits custody evenly. An experienced family law attorney with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan can take the next step with you and help you to create a fair and balanced possession schedule for you and your family to take part in for years to come.
How to handle possession questions for children who are under the age of 3
if you have children who are under the age of three then it is customary for a family court judge to consider them as part of a different possession order than for older children. Many times, judges will implement what is known as a stairstep schedule for children under the age of three who can begin with a different possession schedule and then graduate into a standard possession order as they age. There are numerous factors for a judge to consider when issuing orders on Possession of children under the age of three.
First, your and your parent’s history of parenting your children will be relevant to a family court judge. For instance, if both you and your Co-parent have taken and involved a role in raising your children then it is more likely that the two of you will be able to split custody regarding your children. However, if you have taken a backseat to your Co-parent when it comes to raising your little one then your visitation and possession of the child may be more limited compared to your co-parent. This is the case for many families, so it is not a judgment on your parenting. You may be the parent who works full time while your spouse or co-parent stays home to raise the child. However, moment-to-moment caring for a child is crucial in an analysis like this.
As a parent of small children, myself, I understand how the child can have a strong reaction to being separated from a parent even for a short period. What is sometimes called separation anxiety can be real for children no matter their age. If your very young child would have a very difficult time parting from you or your co-parent, then that is information that should be made available to a family court judge. Implementing a possession schedule that does not comport with your family’s methods of raising children will probably not be in that child’s best interest.
Another important factor in all this is the work schedules of you and your Co-parent. When it comes to raising a small child, it is important to be able to have a job that provides flexibility for raising a small child. Even if you have daycare and other options available to you and your family, it is still important for all of you to be able to be present for the children if their sick, hurt at daycare or school or if any other situation arises regarding the kids. If you work from home or have an otherwise flexible schedule, then this is an important point in your favor in terms of being able to have as much possession as possible with your child.
Finally, a judge would consider your child’s physical, mental, and medical needs when it comes to issuing orders. A lot of this is difficult to determine given the age of your child especially if he or she is a newborn baby. However, the medical needs and Temperament of your child about being separated from either you or your Co-parent will almost certainly be an issue in the case.
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 and come over the phone and via video. These consultations are a great way for you to learn more about the world of Texas family law as well as about how your family circumstances may be impacted by the filing of a divorce or child custody case.