Loopholes in Custody Agreements

A divorce is a circumstance where you put your best foot forward when it comes to negotiations. Trying to figure out how to take advantage of your co-parent is not the goal. However, in coming up with a custody agreement you want an order that suits your children and you as a parent. All of us parents believe that we know what is best for our kids. As a result, the effort put into the negotiation of your custody agreements matters a great deal Who will have more of a say when it comes to raising your children- you or your co-parent? In a perfect world, both of you contribute a great deal.

While putting your heart and soul into your court orders is expected there are almost always some oversights that enter the picture. These oversights are not always fatal to the well-being of a case. Sometimes these oversights or loopholes position you to be able to work towards bettering the lives of your children. These are not purposeful workarounds that you negotiated for. Rather, these are circumstances that worked out well for you or your co-parent inadvertently.

This is what we are going to discuss in today’s blog post from the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. Namely, how you as a parent can identify and take advantage of loopholes in your custody agreement. Walking you through the custody agreement of your divorce or child custody case and then identifying those loopholes is the name of the game.

Want to win more time with your children? Follow this idea

This is not a “true” loophole, but it is something that allows you to gain more time with your children as the noncustodial parent. In a child custody case, it is a competition to win more time with your children. This is not a competition in the strictest sense of the word, but it feels like a race or a contest of some sort. The prize is spending more time with your children after the case is over with. The playing field is the negotiating table or courtroom. How you approach those fields of play matters. 

For the most part, how you come out in a custody setting depends on the role you played with your child to that point in his life. Meaning, if you have never taken an active role in the life of your child to that point do not expect that you are going to be able to now in the divorce. Judges can tell what parent has been more active in raising a child. Your co-parent surely knows who the primary caretaker has been. 

In short, it is not possible in most situations to fool anyone when it comes to “outkicking your coverage” with parenting time. Many parents dream of getting “that” judge who sees their situation 1,000 times more favorably than he ought to. Those judges don’t exist. Judges know which parent has been the active caretaker. Your co-parent surely does. So, how do you earn more time in the custody agreement in a way that is like a loophole?

Loophole #1: Negotiating the expanded standard possession order

In Texas, the tried-and-true method of dividing time between parents in a child custody setting is known as a standard possession order. The standard possession order (SPO) allows parents to divide their time in a somewhat even fashion when it comes to the children. Let’s assume that you are the noncustodial parent. This means you pay child support and have visitation rights to your children. Your co-parent is the custodial parent who receives child support and has the kids live with her during the school year. This is the basic overview of parenting plans

Next, the two of you have autonomy over your case to make decisions for yourselves when it comes to a possession schedule. There is nothing in the Texas Family Code or anywhere else that mandates you follow a certain plan one way or another. Many parents fall back on a standard possession order but that is not required. Rather, the two of you can come up with your plan however you see fit. 

This is the backdrop of child custody negotiations. There are no guarantees as to how yours will go. However, expect that you and your co-parent have goals in mind that revolve around seeing your children as much as possible. Whatever orders you arrive at depend upon a host of factors that are not always in your control. However, one thing you can control is the planning you put into your case. Fooling the judge or your co-parent is not a great plan to have. However, negotiating skillfully is a terrific goal to set for yourself. 

Work on the margins to gain more child custody time

This is where parents tend to spend the most time with their children. Movies and television shows have us believe that grand gestures are what wins out in a custody case. However, this is not true. It certainly looks better on the television screen for a parent to make a dramatic revelation that wins the day. However, real-life family law cases are much less viewer-friendly than this. Rather, the most likely outcome in a child custody case is the one you should expect. 

When the most likely outcome is the most reasonable outcome then you don’t have much to go off in the way of stunning negotiation tactics. Working with an experienced family law attorney helps. For instance, being involved in a highly competitive child custody case is not anything new to the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. We take seriously the challenges associated with working alongside families who want to always play a major role in the lives of their children. The pressure and stakes in a case like that are what drives our attorneys to do what we do. 

Finding an attorney who serves their clients is one of the major benefits to have on your side in a divorce or child custody case. Interested in learning more about how our office can help you? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan today. Our licensed family law attorneys offer free of charge consultations six days a week. These consultations are done in person, over the phone, and via video. 

Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth- that’s where the loopholes are found!

The loopholes that you seek in a custody situation are all around you. The trouble is, many people overlook them in search of something bigger or more exciting. The best comparison I can provide you with is to look at gaining more time with your children like picking up change on the sidewalk. The idea of picking up one coin on the sidewalk probably is not that appealing to you. Many of us rarely use change these days. It’s cumbersome to carry change. Next, change is not worth very much. Only picking up a single coin? Can’t pay for much with a nickel or dime. 

However, what if you could pick up a coin every five feet. Furthermore, what if you needed to walk half a mile to arrive at your destination? That money adds up. Surely, you can buy yourself lunch with all the coins you are picking up at that point. This is what I am talking about when it comes to winning on the margins. Winning more time with your child does not only mean swooping in and becoming the custodial parent of your child. That may not be possible in your current situation. 

However, there are ways to gain more parenting time with your children during the negotiation phase of your case. It means paying attention to the details. The small things that many people overlook in a divorce or child custody scenario. There are a handful of different areas of your custody orders where you can do this. The Standard Possession Order is the most obvious place to start. Fortunately for us, it is also the best place to look for more time with your child.

Negotiating an expanded SPO- the key to winning more time with your children

The more time you can win with your child the better off your child will be. Start by looking at an expanded Standard Possession Order. An expanded SPO takes all the great parts of an SPO and makes them bigger. For instance, having possession of the kids on the first, third, and fifth weekends of each month is nice. However, an expanded standard possession order makes that even better. An expanded SPO takes drop off and pick up at 6:00 pm on Sunday and 6:00 pm on Friday and lengthens the time. Now, you pick up the kids from school on Friday and drop them off at school again on Monday morning. 

In the aggregate, this builds on the time you have with your children. That is an extra night (Sunday to Monday) and a handful of more hours on Friday. Over the year that is at least 15-18 extra “sleepover” nights. Now instead of rushing the kids to your house on a Friday evening, you can take your time. Maybe cooking a meal with your kids is on the list for one weekend? Or even taking the kids to your parent’s home for a meal. This extra time is yours to spend how you choose. 

This is what we mean by the little things here and there adding up. These are not the type of additional time slots that will win you any notoriety in family law circles. However, they make a difference in the long run. The extra time with your kids means you do not have to stress all day to make sure you get home from work just in time to get the kids. Less risk of an enforcement case down the road. More quality time with the kids. Sounds like a win-win.

Be careful what you wish for….

What you desperately want during the divorce or child custody case can turn out to be a negative for your family. The extra time that you negotiate for is a nice thing to have in your back pocket. Sure, wanting to be the custodial parent due to the possession time difference is a good idea. However, this does not mean that an expanded SPO is anything to look down on. An expanded SPO in the present offers a great deal more than a normal SPO. 

What we also see with SPOs is that they are preferred by judges because they tend to work often. When parents cannot agree on a different parenting schedule then an SPO suits everyone very well. The drop-off and pick-up times are typically convenient for families. The holiday visitation schedules work for the most part. If you and your co-parent live within a short drive of one another the plan is typically a good one. 

This is why negotiating for an expanded standard possession order is not always the best idea. Consider your work schedule, the distance from your home to that of your co-parent, and other logistical impacts the expanded SPO can have. In a perfect world having more time with your kids is perfect. However, there are other factors to consider like travel, work schedules, etc. Think about these issues while you are negotiating your child custody orders.

Loophole #2: Making the order flexible but specific simultaneously

This is the one area of your case where it pays to be flexible when it comes to the time you spend with your kids. Imagine a scenario where you and your co-parent have a good relationship. The divorce was not filed out of hatred for the other person. Rather, the end of the relationship marked a time when you would focus on the kids. 

Having a flexible child custody order is a built-in loophole. Giving one another more time with the kids each week is not possible without eating into the time of one another, right? If you decide to switch off periods with the kids, then it is possible. One month you take the kids home from school on your weekends. Next month your ex-spouse can do so. This flexibility provides help for both parents when you feel like you are not getting as much time with the kids as you would like. 

You’d also want to have the orders be as specific as possible, however. At first, this seems like a contradiction. A specific and unambiguous court order is one that you can enforce in the future. A family court judge cannot enforce an ambiguous court order. Get yourself a court order that spells out exactly how you envision your case as being flexible. This way you can have your cake and eat it too.

Final thoughts on loopholes in child custody orders

Finding yourself in a position to take advantage of a court order is a prized opportunity. Again, this does not mean taking advantage of your co-parent. The best situation is one where there are benefits to both sides. What I like to tell clients is that when you walk out of a family law case and feel like there are things you still could have negotiated for but didn’t- that is probably a fair case. A fair case is one where ultimately your child benefits the most. Seeing your child build a relationship with both you and your co-parent is a best-case scenario. 

Again, these sorts of loopholes are not possible to take advantage of unless you know your court orders and your goals. Having goals means being very intentional about approaching the family law case. Do not just walk through the case or wander from subject to subject. It is possible to wander into a family law case, but it is impossible to wander out with any goals having been achieved. Instead, consider the benefits to your child’s life and approach the case with his interests at the forefront. 

What the Law Office of Bryan Fagan offers to our clients 

The Law Office of Bryan Fagan knows the details matter when it comes to your family. Being in a family law case means taking advantage of the time, rights, and duties you have concerning your children. This could mean obtaining extra nights per month with your child as a noncustodial parent. Or it could be obtaining a more flexible series of court orders that still allow you to enforce them if need be. Whatever your situation is the Law Office of Bryan Fagan is here for you. We work alongside our neighbors every day in court and at the negotiation table. Thank you for spending part of your day with us here on our blog. 

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. Interested in learning more about how your family is impacted by the material in this blog post? Contact us today.

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