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 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 can put your differences aside, a project like this may 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
Before beginning the discussions that could lead to a 50/50 parenting plan, you need to know 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 uptime with a child. It is detailed in the Texas Family Code and is 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.
Suppose you have agreed in temporary orders mediation to do a 50/50 possession split, even if you go to a trial for final charges. In that case, probably, a judge will not want to rock the boat and continue with that plan as long as it has been working well for your family. Judges like consistency and stability above all else. Even if they are not a massive fan of a 50/50 possession split, I believe they do not want 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 program. 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 provide consistency as far as she would be staying every week. This can be a beautiful plan for older children who may have practices, homework, and other activities throughout the week. Keep in mind that you and your ex-spouse can constantly tinker with this plan should the need arise.
The other 50/50 possession schedule that 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 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-spouses and back to your home all in one week. Even for the most challenging and most flexible children, this could prove undoable over a long period.
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 can 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 highly flexible work schedules to maintain an atypical parenting plan like the ones we have been discussing today. A job where you have to be at 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 maintaining a 50/50 parenting plan.
Work in a field where you are on call for extended periods (doctors, pilots, emergency medical workers). It would be best if you worked 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. If you can't work something out in mediation, you will likely 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 plan of yours may not work out as well as you would hope. Ultimately, you will make the final decision in your family law case on every subject relevant to your lawsuit. 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 when you are not in a great position to attempt to argue for primary custody or even a 50/50 split in charge. 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, which is the bottom line.
Sometimes, it becomes necessary to counsel a client and make him aware of those circumstances. Conceding some time with your child right now 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 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 are 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 those specific things are laid out in the family code 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 stationed overseas, you can name a person to step in and take possession of your child during your regular periods of control. Grandparents are commonly designated to take advantage of the time allotted to you while 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 evil 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 them. 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. 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 straightforward 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 they approach relationships with other adults and even their peers. In some cases, social studies are done on 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 your spouse is displaying alienating behavior during a divorce, you must 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 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 to 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. We blog 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.
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Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC | Houston, Texas Child Custody Lawyers
The Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC, routinely handles matters that affect children and families. If you have questions regarding child custody, it's essential to speak with one of our Houston, TX, child custody lawyers right away to protect your rights.
Our child custody lawyers in Houston, TX, are skilled at listening to your goals during this trying process and developing a strategy to meet those goals. Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC by calling (281) 810-9760 or submit your contact information in our online form. The Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC, handles child custody cases in Houston, Texas, Cypress, Klein, Humble, Kingwood, Tomball, The Woodlands, Houston, the FM 1960 area, or surrounding areas, including Harris County, Montgomery County, Liberty County, Chambers County, Galveston County, Brazoria County, Fort Bend County, and Waller County.