While a Standard Possession Order that features alternating weekends during the school year and alternating holidays for the remaining months may work for many families, you may not have envisioned that type of schedule for your family. If you and your spouse have been able to work together on settling your divorce outside of court and are willing to collaborate on an atypical parenting plan then I would suggest negotiating a 50/50 possession schedule.
From what I have gathered in my years working with clients going through child custody and divorce cases, many of you are already aware that 50/50 possession splits are possible. For those of you who are not exactly sure what I am talking about, a 50/50 custody split means that you and your spouse would like to divide your child’s time with both of in a 50/50 fashion. Neither of you would be named as the primary conservator of your child, meaning neither of you would receive child support.
The typical family that enters into a 50/50 split has parents that have flexible work schedules that allow for mid-week pick ups/drop offs. These families also work well together. If you cannot stand the thought of talking to your spouse unless it is an emergency then a 50/50 parenting plan probably will not work well for you all. However, if you are able to put your differences aside then a plan like this may actually work quite well.
With all of that said, let’s explore more details about a 50/50 plan and how different variations may work for you and your family.
Different ways to divide up possession according to a 50/50 possession plan
What you need to know prior to beginning the discussions that could lead to a 50/50 parenting plan is that the presumption should your case go to court is that a Standard Possession Order is in the best interests of your children. This is the tried and true method for dividing up time with a child. It is detailed in the Texas Family Code and is obviously thought to be the gold standard for possession schedules. My point is that if you want a 50/50 possession schedule for your child you will need to negotiate for it, rather than expect to be able to convince a judge to give it to you.
If you have agreed in temporary orders mediation to be able to do a 50/50 possession split, even if you go to a trial for final orders it is probable that a judge will not want to rock the boat and will continue on with that plan as long as it has been working well for your family. Judges like consistency and stability above all else, and even if they are not a huge fan of 50/50 possession split I believe they're not wanting to rock the boat will trump the desire to order a standard possession order.
The week on/week off schedule is the tried and true method for dividing up a 50/50 schedule. As the name would indicate, your child would spend one week with you and one week with your ex-spouse in your respective homes. This would minimize travel to and from your home and would provide consistency as far as where she would be staying on a weekly basis. For older children who may have practices, homework and other activities throughout the week this can be an especially attractive plan. Keep in mind that you and your ex-spouse can always tinker with this plan should the need arise.
The other 50/50 possession schedule that I have both judges and mediators approve of is a 2-2-3 plan. This one has a few more moving pieces than a week on/week off plan, so I would like to discuss it with you here. For example, you would take possession of your child on every Monday and Tuesday. Your ex-spouse could get your child every Wednesday and Thursday, and you would alternate Friday through Sunday.
From my vantage point, unless you and your ex-spouse live very close to one another (like in the same neighborhood) it could be a disaster for your child from a travel and stability standpoint. This plan could potentially mean moving from your home to your ex-spouse’s and back to your home all in one week. Even for the toughest and most flexible children, this could prove undoable over a long period of time.
To be fair, as with the week on/week off plan, there is an opportunity with the 2-2-3 plan to tinker around the edges to find something that works in time. However, you will not have the luxury of knowing what will work until you are able to try it out. You have to break some eggs to make an omelet, so they say.
How your work schedule may impact what visitation schedule you would like to utilize
As I noted at the outset of today’s blog post, sometimes it is necessary (or close to it) for you and your ex-spouse to have extremely flexible work schedules in order to maintain an atypical parenting plan like the ones we have been discussing today. A job where you have to be in your desk at 8:00 a.m. and cannot leave until 5:00 p.m., no exceptions, is not a schedule that lends itself to being able to maintain a 50/50 parenting plan.
If you work in a field where you are on call for long stretches of time (doctors, pilots, emergency medical workers) you should work with your attorney and your mediator to brainstorm plans that may work best for you and your family. I do not have room here to speculate about every conceivable work schedule that may be relevant to your family, so I would recommend you contact our office to speak to one of our attorneys about any questions you may have. Remember- if you can't work something out in mediation you are likely to be awarded a Standard Possession Order in a trial.
When a 50/50 possession split may not make sense for your family
While an attorney will always do their best to help you achieve your goals as a client, sometimes it is necessary to tell you that a goal of yours may not work out as well as you would hope. Ultimately the final decision in your family law case will be made by you on every subject relevant to your case. However, your attorney may have to counsel you about potential problems that you may be walking into before it is too late.
One such problem would be a situation where you are not in a great position to attempt to argue for primary custody or even a 50/50 split in custody. For example, if your child is under the age of three it is generally thought that the child needs to spend more time with their mother than father (at least in family law cases). While you as a father may have a great relationship with your little one, the fact is that if your child is an infant or is at least still nursing, the need to be around mom trumps any desire for you to have as much time as possible. Their survival depends on being with mom, and that is the bottom line.
As such, sometimes it becomes necessary to counsel a client and make him aware of those circumstances. Conceding some time with your child right now in order to position yourself to ask for more time, later on, is a smart move to make most of the time. This Is not to say that fathers do not have a role to play in raising very young children. I am a dad to two little girls, myself. However, sometimes your family’s circumstances may demand that other considerations be taken in addition to your desire to see your child as much as possible.
Special considerations for military families
From my experience, I can think of no families that need and deserve more special consideration than do military families. The sacrifices that these folks make on behalf of our country is nothing short of heroic. Our office prides itself on providing excellent service to all of our clients, but I know we take special pride in assisting military families specifically.
In our time representing military families, I can tell you that there are specific things that are laid out in the family code that is intended to create a sense of stability and consistency that may otherwise be lost for military families.
One example is that if you are an active duty military member and are stationed overseas, you have the ability to name a person to step in and take possession of your child during your normal periods of possession. Grandparents are commonly designated to take advantage of the time allotted to you while you are serving our nation overseas. Once your time overseas is over, you can come home and are typically provided with makeup time to compensate you for the time lost with your child while you were living abroad.
Sometimes parents have to overcome bad actions from an ex-spouse
I hear from clients all the time who, unfortunately, have had to deal with problems related to their ex-spouse manipulating their children into not wanting to see or spend time with him or her. This is known as alienation. When your child has no good reason for not wanting to see you, that is a good sign that there is manipulation going on. When you speak to your child does he lash out in anger at you? Does he not listen when you ask him to do something mundane or simple to complete? If so, you need to address this not only with your child but with your ex-spouse.
Alienation does not just affect you, but your entire family. It is something where your child can feel the effects of this alienation for years to come in how he or she approaches relationships with other adults and even their peers. In some cases, social studies are done of parents and children during divorce cases to determine the extent to which alienation has been occurring. In other circumstances, you may need to hire a psychologist or therapist to meet with you and your child to begin to eradicate the effects of this alienating behavior.
The bottom line is that if you believe that alienating behavior is being displayed by your spouse during a divorce, it is necessary for you to say something to your attorney. If you do not say something at this time it means that your options to deal with the issue are significantly reduced moving forward.
Tomorrow’s blog post topic: Mental health issues and their effect on family law cases
In tomorrow’s blog post from the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, we will discuss a topic that is unfortunately all too common in family law: mental health and family violence. While it is not always pleasant to discuss these topics it is something that is important nonetheless. Please join us tomorrow as we go over these subjects.
In the meantime, if you have any questions about the material that we have discussed please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. Our licensed family law attorneys represent clients like yourself across southeast Texas with a great deal of pride. We would be honored to speak to you about your case to see how we could help you and your family.
Our attorneys offer free of charge consultations six days a week where we can answer your questions and discuss with you options to pursue moving forward. We invite you to read as much as you can on our website, as well. Weblog about a wide range of family law topics and post blogs to our website every day. Thank you for your time and consideration and we hope you will join us here tomorrow, as well.