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Can the age of a child impact a custody arrangement?

When determining an appropriate custody arrangement for yourself and your spouse after a divorce there are many factors to consider. The age of your child, in addition to other factors, is one that certainly deserves merit. Depending upon the age of your child he or she may not be ready for overnight visits with a non-custodial parent. think about a very young child who is not comfortable sleeping at someone else’s house and in a crib or a bed that is not their own. Additionally, your older child may require a visitation or custody arrangements that is more flexible and allows for him or her they have more autonomy on the week to week arrangements where he or she is to stay.

What I think we should take a look at first is what a custody arrangement is in Texas and how issues related to custody may be determined in your own divorce. Keep in mind that every divorce and child custody case is unique and what we talk about in this blog post may not specifically apply to your circumstances. However, I do believe that much of what we discussed today will apply to you and your family no matter the ages of your children. For questions about any matter not touched on in today's blog post please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan.

What does custody mean in the context of a Texas family law case? 

Many times, I will feel the need to clarify what a term means in the context of one of our blog posts. The reason why I do this is because it may be that the terminology or subject matter that I would like to provide information about on this blog is either fairly obscure or difficult to understand if he do not have a great deal of experience in the world of Texas family law. On the other hand, I don't think anyone here is unfamiliar with the term custody. Most everyone has a basic understanding of what custody is in that it relates to family law primarily. 

Custody takes into consideration issues related to conservatorship, visitation, possession and access. It is sort of a catchall term used to describe a number of different concepts in the world of family law. Since it is tedious to mention multiple areas of family law we have just sort of combined each of these topics into one and called it custody while many parents concern themselves primarily with possession and Visitation with their children, conservatorships rights are also important to take note of. 

Conservatorship issues in a Texas divorce

When you are a conservator over another person that means you have the right to make decisions on behalf of that person in the duty to care for that person and look out for their best interests.  Sometimes you will meet people who are conservators over an elderly or impaired relative who is unable to take care of themselves on their own. In that case, an adult who is better able to care for their best interests may seek a court order naming him or herself as the conservator of that dependent relative. 

In the context of a Texas family law case, conservatorship refers to rights and duties that a parent has in relation to their children. Parents have a duty to provide the basic necessities of life for their children such as shelter, clothing, a basic education, food and things of that nature. Above and beyond all of these things a parent also has a duty to love their children and to be emotionally supportive of their kids. 

Parents also have rights to make decisions on behalf of their children. Children do not have the experience or maturity to make decisions for themselves and as such the law puts their parents in a position to make decisions until that child reaches the age of majority. In the context of a family law case, typically these decisions are in relation to educational and medical matters. The difficult part about a discussion on rights and duties in relation to your children is that these rights and duties will need to be divided up between you and your spouse after the divorce. 

Many rights and duties are shared with your ex-spouse, some are held independent while in some cases one parent will hold the exclusive right to make decisions about one subject or another. You should work closely with your family law attorney to take into account your specific circumstances and to consider how these rights and duties should be apportioned Between you and your ex-spouse. I can tell you from experience that this is not a subject that many parents come into a divorce showing a lot of concern over. However, it is just as important as dividing up time between you and your spouse. 

Visitation, possession, and access issues in a Texas divorce 

when you take into consideration issues regarding Visitation, possession and access we are typically talking about one common subject: time. time with your children is but you will likely be the most focused on as your divorce approaches. Time with your kids is something that you may have taken for granted, like many parents do, prior to your divorce but are now seeking answers on how to be with your child as much as possible. This will be the focus of the remainder of today's blog post. 

Simply put, most parents as a result of Texas divorces end up sharing time with their children in a joint managing conservatorship. We have already discussed what a conservatorship is so now we can talk about the time with your children and how it will be divided in a joint managing conservatorship. The most common division of time for parents in separated households is where one parent lives with the children on a primary basis in the other parent has Visitation. The primary conservator is able to select the primary residence of the kids while the parent with visitation rights has a set visitation schedule that he or she is able to take advantage of during the year. 

The most common visitation schedule for the non-primary parent is called a standard possession order. A standard possession order is a custody arrangement regarding time that you are probably the most aware of. the first, 3rd and 5th weekends of each month go towards time 4 the non-primary parent. Holidays, summer vacation another time periods throughout the year are spelled out within the final decree of divorce as far as how time will ultimately be divided. 

The most common concern that I hear from the non-primary parent in regard to a standard possession order is that they are worried about the Visitation schedule giving much more time to the primary period as opposed to themselves. I can understand this concern and have talked to many parents about how time is divided under a standard possession order. The best that I can tell you is that a standard possession ordered, while it does not offer a complete split in terms of time, does divide time up more equitably then you might think. 

Consider that Holidays are split down the middle, summer vacations allow for extended periods of time for you to be with your kids and that you are able to take advantage of more weekends with your children during the school year then does your expels. Yes, your ex-spouse does get your children during the week but keep in mind that the hours that your children are actually at home during the school week are limited. With all that said, a standard possession order affords an opportunity for you to spend time with your children and develop a relationship with them. 

Age related impacts on custody arrangements 

now that we have talked about the basics of conservatorships, Visitation and possession in Texas we can now get down to the subject matter of today's blog post. The age of your children can make a difference in how custody is divided between you and your ex-spouse. That doesn't mean that for each new age your child turns over a given year that the custody arrangements will need to change as well. However, depending on the stage in your child development he or she may need more time with one parent depending on their circumstances. 

A child who is three years of age or younger is typically not equipped to be engaged in a full visitation schedule with their non primary parent. For infants and even toddlers, their main source of food maybe limited and therefore that parent who provides the food (Mom) still needs to be in close proximity to the child until he or she begins to eat solid foods. As such, if you are the non-primary parent then your opportunities to visit with your child may be more limited in terms of duration of each visit. You and your spouse should negotiate with this in mind during your divorce to give you time with your child but still allow for him or her to be near to their food source and mother. 

Once a child turns four and then up to the point where he or she begins to drive a vehicle, your individual circumstances will play more into how Visitation time is divided up more so than the age of your child. School aged children are typically able to adjust moderately well to changes in Visitation and traveling from home to home to spend time with each of their parents. As a result, I cannot say that the age of your children plays a huge role in determining custody arrangements once they are school aged. 

I will take note, however, that once your child reaches 12 or 13 years old, he or she can speak to your family court judge about they are preferences as far as Visitation is concerned. That doesn't mean that the judge will have to determine custody based on your child's preferences, but a judge will be more interested in learning what a teenage child believes as far as custody then a child in elementary school. 

Finally, if your child is old enough to drive then it is likely that he or she has extracurricular activities, obligations of other sorts and even work to be concerned with as far as how custody is determined. This means that the orders contained in your final decree of divorce will act more so as suggestions or guideposts rather than strict rules. The reason for this is that your child is able to transport him or herself from home to home and that their schedule may change at a moment’s notice. you should not be surprised if the plan contained in your final decree of divorce for child custody ends up having to change multiple times as your children become teenagers.

however, this does not mean that you and your ex-spouse will have to go back to family court in order to have a judge modify your orders formally. If you and your ex-spouse are able to work together and coordinate changes as they need to arise then you all can avoid costly and drawn out court battles over this subject. Remember that just because you have gotten divorced from your spouse does not mean that your time having to work with him or her to problem solve through issues is over with. In fact, your work co-parenting your children is just beginning once your divorce is finalized. 

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 consultation six days a week in person, over the phone, and via video. Thank you for your interest in today's blog post and we hope that you will join us again tomorrow as we share more unique content about the world of Texas family law. 

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