When your family goes through a child custody or divorce case in Texas, one of the most important aspects of the case will relate to a possession and access schedule for your children. Possession in access in combination with visitation is the legal term to describe when you and your Co-parent will be able to have physical custody of your children. When it comes to this subject, we can agree that most parents want to be able to have possession of their children as frequently as possible. With that said, your ability to have your children will vary depending upon the possession schedule laid out for you and your Co-parent in your final custody orders.
All of this is an element of A parenting plan that was either handed down to you by a family court judge or negotiated between you and your Co-parent. The parenting plan takes into consideration the specific needs of your family and the circumstances of you and your children and then attempts to build an all-encompassing plan that can best suit your family both now and in the future. This is a difficult task to accomplish and one that can be technically based on the situation that your family finds you in. Many families go to extreme lengths to build a parenting and custody plan that is suitable for their children and parents alike.
So long as your custody and possession plans are in the best interest of your children Then the family court judge will likely approve it. However, getting something to a family court judge that is worth all the time and money you put into your case requires you to have a plan and to act intentionally towards achieving that plan. While you may stumble into a family law case it is very difficult to find your way out of a case without being intentional and having specific goals. As a side note, having an experienced family law attorney with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan is it great way To begin to create goals and work towards achieving them.
What happens if you and your Co-parent cannot agree on a parenting plan or possession schedule?
Although most Texas families can settle on a specific plan for custody and possession, that does not mean that your family will not be the exception to this rule. In that case, a family court judge would issue custody and possession orders after a trial. The trial would allow both of you to submit evidence as well as testify about the circumstances of your case to sway the judge to your position.
The most common type of possession order in a divorce or child custody case is known as a standard possession order. In a standard possession order, a primary conservator will have possession of the children during the school week and on the 2nd and 4th weekends of each month. On the other hand, the possessory Conservatory will have visitation with children on the first, 3rd, and 5th weekends of each month in addition to extended visitation time during the summer and holidays. For the most part, this is what you can expect from a family court judge as the standard possession order is enshrined within the Texas family code.
This is a potential problem for families where a standard possession order will not work well. This is not to say that a judge is going to try to shove a standard possession order down your throats when one will not work well for your family. However, family court judges typically do not think outside the box all that much and are more apt to issue orders that are conservative and rather basic. Otherwise, You need to be prepared for negotiations with your Co-parent to avoid circumstances where you are having to rely upon a family court judge to play the tiebreaker between you and your Co-parent.
As with any element of your court orders, you and your Co-parent can decide together to temporarily or informally modify the orders to suit your specific needs. This requires both of you to communicate with one another and to make sure that you are on the same page with the modification that you are seeking. Creating something concrete with one another and having it written down in an e-mail or something similar can be the best path to take given how difficult it may be to negotiate on subjects like this together.
This is one of the ironies of a family law case that involves young children. Whereas in a typical divorce case the two parties may feel that the divorce is the end of their time together in a relationship in a divorce with young children it is not this way at all. Rather, the divorce may be the end of their marriage but you and your ex-spouse will be taking steps to act as Co-parents to your children even though you are no longer married. This is an even more important relationship than your marriage in many ways. Therefore, it would be a mistake to go into hey divorce please believing that the divorce will be the end of your time having a relationship with your spouse.
The other danger of negotiating informally on child custody or divorce orders with your Co-parent is that either of you two can go back on your word at any time regarding any element of the negotiated for change. For example, if you or your Co-parent had a change to your work schedule that's all you are working opposite weekends and you were previously you may want to negotiate informally with your Co-parent to switch weekends with him or her. In many ways, this is your only option considering the circumstances.
If you are Co-parent agrees to switch weekends with you then that plan works out well until the time where it doesn't. I have seen parents, at the drop of a hat, switch their positions on normal modifications to child custody orders. Changing their positions on issues like this end up being a major problem for parents in your position. The last thing you want to do is have to rely upon the good word of a coherent that may not have a great relationship with you.
If you face a situation where an ongoing change to your child custody orders is needed, then you may have no choice at least at first but to alter those orders informally with your Co-parent. However, in the future, you will be better off negotiating with your Co-parent on a permanent and legally binding modification. This can be done through a child custody or possession modification case filed in the same court that granted your divorce or child custody orders in the first place. Hiring an experienced family law attorney with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan cannot only expedite the process of getting these court orders drafted but can work with you to make sure that your case is filed without delay and without harming your relationship with your children.
Important legal terms regarding a possession and access case
Sometimes even the most basic legal terms can be intimidating if you are not familiar with them. Lawyers tend to speak casually about legal terms because we are not only familiar with them But utilize them every day. With that said, I realized that you may be scratching your head about some of the terminologies that we have already been using in today's blog post. That said, let's take some time to walk through the meaning of some of the words that we have been using so far in today's blog post. That way you can better understand the nature of what we're talking about, as well as your options, given the circumstances of you, your Co-parent, and your children.
For starters, in the state of Texas, we use terms like possession and access rather than custody and visitation. These words mean the same thing and our interchangeable in many regards. However, if you want to get very technical about things then you would see that in the Texas family code terms like possession and access are utilized instead of visitation and physical custody. The bottom line is that these terms refer to the specific schedule your children follow in terms of their ability to spend time with you and your coherent throughout the year.
When we talk about possession of your child this refers to points in time when your child is under your care. This not only means physical possession where you can reach out and touch your child but also a legal recipe where you can make decisions on behalf of the child that is in your presence. Access refers to the ability to speak in contact with your child even when you are not in their presence. This would refer to the ability to make phone calls to your child when he or she is at the other parent’s house as well as the ability to attend sporting events and other extracurricular activities with your child.
In most Texas family law cases, one parent is said to have custody and the other has visitation rights. This is probably the most common casual way of referring to a primary conservator and a possessory conservator’s roles. The primary conservator has the right to designate the primary residence of the children and to receive child support. On the other hand, the possessory conservator has the right to visitation with the children on the predetermined schedule contained in a final decree of divorce or final orders in a suit affecting the parent-child relationship.
Additionally, within the parenting plan will be specific designations for conservatorships rights and duties. This refers to the ability of you your Co-parents to not only spend time with your children but also to make decisions on the child's behalf as well as the duty to care for and provide for your child. Understandably in a divorce or child custody case, you and your Co-parent may be focused on making sure that you can spend as much time with your children after the family law case ends as possible. However, conservatorship rights and duties R an incredibly important aspect of this discussion and should not be overlooked. Determining educational outcomes for your children is all a part of conservatorship rights. These are critical aspects of your ability to parent your children. As such, they are not parts of a case that should be overlooked. In Texas, parents are either involved in a joint managing conservatorship or a sole managing conservatorship.
In some situations, you may be able to negotiate for a split in conservatorships rights, duties, and parenting time. This is generally known as having split custody with your Co-parent. This is not an arrangement that works for every family although it is the stated objective of parents in many cases. From my experience, if you and your Co-parent live close to one another, have a good relationship and your children's schedule will allow for it then split custody oftentimes works well for families. However, you should think through the arrangement very clearly before determining that it is what you want to work for as far as a goal in your case. The last thing you want to do is negotiate for a parenting plan involving split custody only to find that it is a plan that does not work well for your family.
Details about making your possession and access schedule
As we just finished discussing, you and your co-parent can create your custody and possession schedule. When it comes to possession and access it is a team effort you and your Co-parent intended to work together to create your reality and schedule for raising your children together as a team. In family law cases the attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan will work with the U2 to create various proposals that consider the needs of your children, your Co-parent, and your schedule. It can be extremely effective to negotiate on these subjects together to put the best interests of your children first and foremost.
Based on the age of your children as well as the location of your two homes, you and your Co-parent may be able to negotiate a possession schedule that allows for your children to stay four days of the week with you three days of the week with your other parent. This allows for minimal back and forth travel each week and does away with the normal weekend visitation as seen in a standard possession order. there are nearly infinite options when it comes to creating your possession and access schedules with your Co-parent. The only limitations as far as I can see are the creativity of you all and your attorneys as well as the specific schedules that you have.
Creating your unique schedules with visitation can work very well. However, it does not consider the likely need to vary these schedules based on events like summer vacation, spring break, and longer holidays such as Christmas or Thanksgiving. The two of you would need to work through the details associated with these events. It is not likely that four days on three days off schedule would work well throughout the year considering these holidays. As a result, you all should consider what options are available to you and what can be done to create orders that work well not only now but also in the future.
Once you have a position in the access schedule that seems to suit you all well you can negotiate on it, insert it into your parenting plan and then create a schedule using whatever methods you choose to make sure that everyone knows what their responsibilities are as far as possession and access. There are many tools available online through Co-parenting websites where you can create digital calendars that you and your Co-parent can make additions and deletions to base on various times of the year. If you and your Co-parent negotiated a possession and access schedule together with a mediator, then it is even more likely for a family court judge to quickly and readily approve what you all have created.
This information will hopefully serve you well if you are just beginning a child custody or divorce case. For more information on possession and access schedules please check back with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan in the coming weeks as we share more information based on our experience representing families from Southeast Texas in cases related to young children.
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 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.