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Joint Custody in the Midst of Coronavirus: Be Flexible with Your Ex

Without fail, when I am meeting with a potential new client of the law officer Brian Fagan, one of the things that will come up in relation to their child is the issue of custody. Child custody is an important topic not only in cases that only deal with children but also in divorce cases. Child custody encompasses issues related to possession, Visitation, access, child support and conservatorships. Without a doubt, child custody issues are extremely important and that is why it is almost always one of the first subjects to come out of the mouth of a person who is interested in learning more about our law practice. 

Almost inevitably, the potential new client will talk to me about their wishes for their upcoming divorce or child custody case. Sometimes, I'll hold up my pen and ask the person to imagine that this pen was a magic wand. I will even wave the pin around a little bit for effect and ask him or her to tell me what their desired outcome in their case would be if I were a magician instead of a family law attorney. How would they like to see the case decided along the lines of child custody specifically? Had they given that any thought or were they merely dreading the beginning of an unpleasant process? 

Most people would have given some thought to their case by this stage and will have told me that their desire would be to have full custody of their child. By now, I am used to this response typically ask the person what they believe full custody to mean. Does it mean that you get to see your child most of the time as compared to your spouse? Does it mean that your child lives with you and only goes to see your spouse on the weekends? Or does it mean that you get to see your child, hold conservative shipwrights superior to that of your spouse and generally speaking Make the final decisions about all areas of your child's life? 

Most typically people will answer that their desire would be to keep their child with them for the most part and simply allow their spouse to have limited Visitation and conservatorship rights. In some circumstances I can understand why the parent feels this way. Many people go through difficult experiences in raising a child with a spouse or partner who is not willing to put forth much effort or on the other side of the coin puts forth a lot of effort at being a difficult person to live with and raise a child with. In some cases, potential clients have spoken about abuse suffered at the hands of their spouse or partner. 

If we remove circumstances that involve abuse, we can consider that most of the time in Texas conservatorships in custody rights are not awarded to one parent over another in an uneven split. In your mind you may be justified in requesting superior rights and more time with your child then your spouse gets. However, the reality of most family law cases is that conservatorships in custody rights are fairly well split down the middle when the case is all said and done. 

This reflects a belief in the state of taxes that your child will benefit from having long lasting contact with both you and your child's other parent. It also reflects the belief that the state of Texas has regarding both parents having some skin in the game as far as needing to be responsible for their children. Rather than shift the burden of parenting from two people to one after a divorce or child custody case, judges and the law favor a division of rights that is fairly even. 

Many times, when I tell a potential client about this, he or she will be disappointed. In their mind they were going to walk into a courtroom and simply present the evidence of their lives to a judge and how the judge sees the case completely in their favor. I appreciate the optimism, I will usually tell the person, but the reality of the situation is that this is not likely. In fact, most family law cases never even make it before a judge on any issue as critical as custody or conservatorship. Rather, most family law cases are settled in mediation where you and your spouse are able to hammer out an agreement on all of the issues that we have already discussed in today's blog post 

Why is it that full custody or sole custody occurs so rarely in family law cases? The answer is that it is a default setting in a family law case for judges too award joint managing conservator ships too parents in a family law case. essentially, a court will begin with the idea that it is best for your child to be in a scenario where both parents essentially share equal rights and duties. If circumstances merit awarding sole custody, then that will be considered. However, this is an exception rather than a rule. 

When you stop to think about it for the most part with families that I have been working with over my years as an attorney it is not usually the case that parents want to be in a position where they are the sole provider for a child. While the idea may appeal to you as you are frustrated and planning a family law case on a long-term basis not only does your child benefit from having the involvement of your spouse in their life but you will as well even after your divorce. Let's take some time to discuss why this is.

How do you benefit from your ex-spouse having custody rights to your child after a divorce? 

While it may not seem like it, your divorce or child custody case will be a short period of time relative to the rest of your life. It may feel like your divorce or child custody case is dragging on and on without an end, but I can assure you that your case will come to an end at some point. When that end comes your weekly conversations with an attorney and almost constant concern over the progress of your case will come to an end. 

When your case does come to an end that is when the real work of raising your child begins. An ironic part of a child custody or divorce case is that you spend the entire case attempting to gain an advantage over your opposing party for the benefit of your child but at the end of the case are forced to join forces with that same person in order to achieve a common goal. That common goal would be building a life for your child that is beneficial to him or her. It can be difficult for some people to turn off the competitive or tactical side of their brain that was lit on fire during a family law case and turned to a co-parenting mindset after the case has completed. 

I do not blame any person for not acting like themselves during a family law case. The reality is I have seen many intelligent, reasonable and well put together people change during the course of a family law case despite their best efforts. If anyone tells you that a family law case, be it a child custody case or divorce, is not a big deal then that person is fooling you. Family law cases typically involve matters that are both personal, financial and relational all in one. In this way your case will put to the limits your ability to problem solve under duress. 

It would be understandable to want nothing to do with your spouse both during and after divorce. As an extension of you wanting to do nothing with your spouse it would make sense to then want your child to have nothing to do with him or her. Simply burning that bridge and moving on to a new destination with your child seems like a neat and tidy way to go about your post family law case life. All the baggage of your former life can be left by the seashore and you can continue on living with your child without having that baggage attached to you. 

Here is the tough part to come to terms with as you conclude a family law case in Texas. If you have not yet filed your case and are just considering doing so then you should take to heart the things I have to say right here. it will be easier and more productive for you and most beneficial for your child for you and your spouse to have a relationship with your children after the divorce. It may not feel like that right now. It may feel like you want to drive your spouse out of the life of your child and shoulder that responsibility all on your own. You're an American after all: you value your independence you have confidence in your own abilities to handle problems.

with that said parenting a child on your own is not easy. There are financial concerns that every family has especially during a pandemic. Do not lose track of the fact that you are going from 2 incomes in a household to one. Try running a budget just based on your income and I think you will see your household expenses do not necessarily diminish that much after a divorce. However, your income in the household surely will at least for a period of time. That means your dollar is going to be stretched. My hope is that fewer and fewer jobs are lost in more jobs are added to the economy over the next few months, but we have no real way of knowing that. 

Next, we have to consider the day-to-day logistical difficulties of parenting. Do you really want to shoulder all the burden when it comes to transportation for your child and working out schedules so everyone can attend their activities and you can manage to work a full day every weekday? This does not sound desirable to me. Losing your spouse and their help after a divorce could be pretty damaging to your family in that regard, as well. Four hands, after all, are better than just two. 

Finally, I think the ability to present a united front to your child in terms of discipline and structure is also very important. It is nice to have backup in disciplinary scenarios where you are attempting to discipline your child for misbehavior or for any other reason. If your child can see that both you and your ex-spouse are taking seriously their behavior it is more likely that your child will correct him or herself. in terms of their overall performance in school it is helpful to have your ex-spouse available to help shoulder some of the burden when it comes to getting homework done in assignments completed. 

This is the essence of co-parenting and shared parenting after a Texas family law case. It does not have to be something complex and it does not have to involve you and your spouse becoming best friends after the divorce. Yes, you will hear from some people that they have become friends with an ex-spouse once their divorce is over with. While this may sound nice and like a storybook in some ways it is not the reality for most people. However, the reality for most people is that they are able to work closely with their ex-spouse in order to promote the better good for their children. 

My advice to people who are going through a family law case is to treat relations with their opposing party like you would a business deal. Do your best to remove emotion out of the equation and instead focus on the overall objective like you would the overall completion of a project at work. You do not have to Mike your ex-spouse, but you do need to have a basic level of respect for him or her. The respect at least needs to be sufficient enough to be courteous and civil with him or her when discussing your child. You especially need to be aware that harsh words towards your ex-spouse after a divorce can be especially hard for your child to tolerate. Do your best to not speak ill of your ex-spouse, especially in front of your child.

Closing thoughts on joint custody in the midst of coronavirus 

I think it is safe to say that many of us have our emotions on edge during this pandemic. The cruel reality of the pandemic is that we are spending more time at home than ever and we have our TV's inevitably turned to the news which constantly provides us with negative information. That is due in part to a lot of negative information being available, but the fact remains is that we are taking in a lot more negative information than positive. If you have added to that equation a family law case, then you may find that your perspective has become jaded or is more willing to tolerate negative emotion and anger towards those around you. 

My advice in relation to parenting child during the coronavirus pandemic would be to extend as much patience as possible to your co-parent. This is true even if he or she does not extend the same courtesy to you. It can be extremely difficult to do so but I can promise you that there will be a benefit for you in the long run. Most of all, there will be a benefit for your child in the long run. 

Most importantly, remember that co-parenting is not about you: it is about your child. If you approach the decisions that you make in the attitudes that you take towards your ex-spouse with this in mind you will do better when it comes to sharing responsibilities associated with parenting your child. If you are considering the filing of a family law case right now, then your next step should be to speak with an experienced family law attorney. A family law attorney can help you manage not only your expectations, as well as your case but can help you too guide your actions in a post-divorce or post child custody world. 

Questions about today’s blog post? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan

If you have any questions about the material presented 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 the services that our office can provide to you as a client.

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