The start of a new year offers a great deal of promise for families like yours. If you have recently gone through a family law case, you are very likely grateful that your case is now over and done with. Completing your case before the end of 2023 must have felt like a tremendous accomplishment. Now that you are past the New Year and are into 2023, you have different challenges to attend to. The adjustment period associated with managing a possession schedule for you, your co-parent, and your child can be significant.
Fortunately, there are resources for you to consider as you and your family begin to make that transition into a post-family law case lifestyle. If you have never had a custody or possession schedule dictating when you can see your child, then this is a definite change for you. To this point, you were likely used to being able to see your children whenever you wanted to. However, now you are engaged in a possession schedule that dictates when you can see your child. How will this affect your relationship with your child?
In today’s blog post from the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, we are going to discuss what it means to have a possession schedule and follow it. Honoring that possession schedule is the key to maintaining a good co-parenting relationship. Being in a position where you can work with your co-parent on any possession issues that come up is critical. So many people struggle in this situation due to their not being able to co-parent well. Being civil and amicable even when disagreements come up is important. The more you can work with your co-parent the better things will be for your child, as well.
We want to be able to help you co-parent under your possession order as effectively as possible. If you have questions about your specific possession schedule, we recommend that you reach out to 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. To parent better, we think that all it takes is improved communication and a willingness to see the situation from the other person’s perspective. That is exactly what we will be walking you through in today’s blog post.
Why follow the possession schedule?
Following a possession schedule may seem like the most unnatural thing in the world. Being told when you can and cannot spend time with your child can seem like an awfully difficult part of being in a post-family law case period for your family. You may want to see your child but if the court order does not allow it then you are going to be disappointed. In that case, the thought may be creeping into the back of your mind to take some liberties here and there with the court order. What’s the worst that can happen?
Violating a court order is no laughing matter. It may feel good to do it at the moment, especially if your child wants to stay another day with you, but in the long run, it harms you in a lot of ways. For one, it sets a precedent that your child could dictate how you follow your court orders. Remember that no matter what your child says or wants you need to be in charge. There are ways to legally change a court order. This is something you should pursue before you try to violate a court order.
A possession schedule helps your family maintain stability and consistency in the life of your child. Ultimately that is who you are trying to look out for here. These possession orders are not supposed to be in your best interests. Rather, they are intended to help preserve stability in the schedule for your child throughout the year. The State of Texas wants to ensure that your child has access to both parents. When you choose to violate a court order that negates the ability of your child to spend time with both parents. The more often this happens, the worse off your child ends up being.
For those of you parents who have struggled with receiving consistent parenting time with your children, the court order could be a real gift to you. This means that you will have a predictable schedule with which to see your children over a year. Your co-parent cannot just withhold custody from you. Now there are consequences to their doing so. You can think more about the time that you are going to spend with your children rather than worrying about whether the visitation will even be able to occur.
If you are the parent who has primary custody of your children you may have pushed for more time with your child than under a standard possession order. At some point, a person may have convinced you that you could win more than this in a courtroom or even in mediation. Mothers especially are sometimes led to believe that they have the upper hand in custody and possession situations. However, this is not the case. Mothers and fathers are treated the same under the law. Still, how can a standard possession order make your life and that of your child better?
The reason is that you want your co-parent to have a meaningful relationship with your child. You may be experiencing a range of emotions right now geared towards your co-parent. Many if not all of them are probably negative emotions. With that said, it does not make sense for you to shoulder almost all the parenting burdens on your own. This may seem like a rather romantic idea, but it will get old quickly. Your child will benefit from having a relationship with you and your co-parent. You will parent better when your child has a relationship with your co-parent.
You can build a stable life with your child as a primary conservator by allowing your co-parent to exercise their rights concerning your child. You are not giving up on your ideals or doing anything like that. Rather, you are simply taking care of your child and yourself as best as possible. In a perfect world, you and your co-parent would still be married and raising your child together. Short of that, you can still coordinate your parenting efforts in a way that benefits your child. Ignoring your possession orders is not the way to do this. Working together to overcome any problems you experience along the way is the way towards more effective parenting.
How to handle problems in possession this month
Inevitably, you will run into some issues when it comes to the possession of your child in 2024. It would be almost unheard of for neither parent nor your child to have something come up that will throw a wrench into your custody plans. When you do run into problems like this there are steps you can take to handle those issues. It would be recommended for you to be able to work through issues directly with your co-parent rather than having to start the new year off with a family law case.
For one, you have a schedule contained in your family court orders. Whether you went through a divorce or child custody case, there will be court orders that state your possession schedule within them. When you signed off on those orders before the conclusion of your case it is presumed that you read them and understood them. Now is the time to put that understanding to good use. You can review those court orders periodically to see what’s coming up as far as your possession times are concerned.
No extended holidays are coming up until Spring Break, but there is a holiday next week for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. Considering that the parent with visitation rights has first, third, and fifth weekend visitation this means that there will be an extension of that weekend out to Monday. Do you have childcare arranged for your child if you are a noncustodial parent? Are you able to take off from work? These should be issues that you sorted out weeks ago but may be issues that you need to consider now if you have not.
Let’s suppose, for example, that you had not thought ahead, however. You have possession of your child on MLK Day but did not bother to set out a work plan. You have work coming up. You plan on asking your employer for the day off but are not sure that the request will be granted considering how you are asking late in the week. This is a mistake that is completely on you. How can you proceed?
First, you should directly address the situation with your co-parent. Make sure she knows that you are acknowledging the mistake that you made. You could have looked ahead to the schedule, but you did not. Now, you are going to try to make the situation right. So, go to your co-parent and explain the situation. Let her voice her opinion on the situation. She may understand completely and have the day off from work herself. In that case, she can watch your child on Monday with no issue.
You may even look closer at your court orders to determine if there is a right of first refusal included in the orders. A right of first refusal would allow your co-parent in this situation to have a certain amount of time (24 hours in most cases) to be able to accept possession of your child on a day that is not “hers.” If she is not able to take possession then the two of you can work something out where a family member, perhaps, could take possession of the child. A right of first refusal comes in handy in situations like this. You can still offer possession even if you don’t have a formal right of first refusal included in your orders.
Simple planning ahead can help you to avoid problems like this, however. It is not as if a particular holiday or weekend can sneak up on you the calendar is what it is. The court orders do not magically change unless you were to go to court to have them changed yourself. Therefore, you should consider your options and then be diligent about making sure you understand the court orders and are prepared for every weekend of possession.
If you encounter a situation with your co-parent that seems like it is not going well then it is important to be calm and patient. Your co-parent may not see the situation exactly as you do. That means you are going to need to defer to a third party who is neutral or work out an agreement of some sort to protect your child. For the most part, the distinction drawn between weekend periods of visitation should be straightforward. The more you read the orders the better understanding of them you will have.
Additionally, maintaining an open line of communication between yourself and your co-parent can be helpful, as well. The attorneys at the Law Office of Bryan Fagan find that the more you communicate with your co-parent the better your relationship will be. If you haven’t spoken to your co-parent in months and you contact him or her for the first time to let them know that you are going to have to miss a weekend visitation period that probably won’t make him or her happy.
Not everyone reading this blog post is going to have the opportunity to have a great relationship with their co-parent. There may be a history there that cannot be overcome. However, for most of you reading this blog post, there is an opportunity to build a meaningful relationship with your co-parent. This is true even if the two of you disagree with one another consistently.
Things to look forward to in 2024
January is the first of twelve months this year. As we conclude today’s blog post I would like to spend some time going through the rest of the months in 2024 to help you pinpoint times that may require you to put in some additional thought or effort to have a smooth experience sharing custody with your co-parent.
First, you should remember that you may have possession of your child for the entirety of Spring Break in March. Look up your child’s school calendar to verify what week that is going to be. If you do not have a calendar you can go to the website for your child’s school district to obtain a copy of one. Usually, a parent will have holidays based on whether it is an “odd” or “even” year. With 2024 being an even year, you should look to see if you have Spring Break in 2024.
April 1 is usually the deadline to provide notice to your co-parent about the month in the summer you intend to exercise your right to possession with your child. That is if you are a noncustodial parent. Even though it is only January, you still have time to figure out what month you would like to take in the summer. Your co-parent will have one weekend of visitation during your month of visitation time. The only weekend she would not be able to select is Father’s Day weekend.
Is your child a high school senior? If so, then you have the end of your obligation to pay child support to look forward to coming up. Under most child support orders, the obligation to pay child support ends either when your child turns 18 or graduates from high school, whichever happens later. Again, review your court order to confirm when your specific obligation comes to an end, however.
Thanksgiving vacation works a lot like Spring Break. Depending upon whether this is an odd or even year you may have possession of your child beginning on the date school lets out until 6:00 pm on the Sunday before school resumes. This is the case if you are a noncustodial parent. Christmas break usually involves possession for one parent beginning the day school lets out until December 28th, and then the other parent gets possession until 6:00 pm on the day before school resumes.
All of this is to say that there is a lot to keep track of when it comes to a Standard Possession Order. However, an SPO does allow parents like you to stay on top of the possession situation with their child through due diligence and planning. We hope that you have enjoyed today’s blog post from the Law Office of Bryan Fagan and hope you join us tomorrow, as well.
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 how your family’s circumstances may be impacted by the filing of a divorce or child custody case.