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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 with their child is custody. Child custody is an essential topic in cases that only deal with children and in divorce cases. Child custody encompasses issues related to possession, Visitation, access, child support, and conservatorships. Without a doubt, child custody issues are critical, and that is why it is almost always one of the first subjects to come out of the mouth of a person interested in learning more about our law practice.

The potential new client will almost inevitably 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 bit of bit for effect and ask them 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 issue 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 told me that they would desire to have full custody of their child. I am used to this response typically to ask the person what they believe full custody to mean. Does it mean that you get to see your child most of the time 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 your spouse, and generally speaking, Make the final decisions about all areas of your child's life?

Most typically, people will answer that they would desire to keep their child with them for the most part and 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 the 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 special rights and more time with your child than your spouse gets. However, the reality of most family law cases is that conservatorships in custody rights are relatively well split down the middle when the issue is all said and done.

This reflects a belief in the state of taxes that your child will benefit from having extended-lasting contact with both you and your child's other parent. It also reflects the opinion that 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 relatively even.

Many times, when I tell potential clients about this, they will be disappointed. In their mind, they were going to walk into a courtroom and present the evidence of their lives to a judge and how the judge sees the case entirely 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. Most family law cases never even make it before a judge on any issue as critical as custody or conservatorship. Instead, most family law cases are settled in mediation, where you and your spouse can 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 to award joint managing conservatorships to parents in a family law case. Essentially, a court will begin with the idea that your child should 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 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 to achieve a common goal. That common goal would be building a life for your child that is beneficial to them. It can be difficult for some people to turn off their brain's competitive or tactical side that was lit on fire during a family law case and turned to a co-parenting mindset after the patient 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 a family law case despite their best efforts. If anyone tells you that a family law case is not a big deal, be it a child custody case or divorce, 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 lawsuit 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 want your child to have nothing to do with them. Simply burning that bridge and moving on to a new destination with your child seems like a neat way to go about your post-family law case life. The seashore can leave all the baggage of your former life, and you can continue living with your child without having that baggage attached to you.

Here is the challenging part of coming to terms with as you conclude a family law case in Texas. If you have not yet filed your lawsuit 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 your child's life and shoulder that responsibility all on your own. After all, you're an American: you value your independence; you have confidence in your 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 that you are going from 2 incomes in a household to one. Try running a budget 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 indeed will, at least for some time. That means your dollar is going to be stretched. I hope fewer and fewer jobs are lost in more jobs added to the economy over the next few months, but we have no natural way of knowing that.

Next, we have to consider the day-to-day logistical difficulties of parenting. Do you 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 crucial. It is nice to have a backup in disciplinary scenarios where you attempt to discipline your child for misbehavior or any other reason. If your child can see that both you and your ex-spouse are taking their behavior seriously, 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 that some people have become friends with an ex-spouse once their divorce is over. While this may sound nice and like a storybook somehow, it is not the reality for most people. However, the fact for most people is that they can work closely with their ex-spouse to promote better good for their children.

My advice to people 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 the emotion from 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 need to have a basic level of respect for them. The concern needs to be sufficient enough to be courteous and civil with them when discussing your child. You especially need to be aware that harsh words towards your ex-spouse after a divorce can be challenging for your child to tolerate. Do your best not to speak ill of your ex-spouse, especially in front of your child.

Closing thoughts on joint custody amid 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 TVs inevitably turned to the news, which constantly provides us with negative information. That is partly due to a lot of negative information being available, but the fact remains that we are taking in a lot more negative news than positive. If you have added a family law case to that equation, 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 with parenting a child during the coronavirus pandemic would be to extend your co-parent as much patience as possible. This is true even if they do not open the same courtesy to you. It can be tough 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 you make in the attitudes 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 filing 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 your expectations and your case and help you 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 an excellent way for you to learn more about the world of Texas family law and the services that our office can provide to you as a client.

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