Figuring out a visitation and possession schedule for your children, whether you are involved in a child custody or divorce case, takes a great deal of planning on behalf of you and your Co-parent. Whether yours is a highly contentious case or is 1 where you and your Co-parent have been civil with one another, it can be difficult to address these subjects given the amount of emotion that can be displayed on behalf of two parents who want to spend as much time as possible with their children. Well, many issues are ongoing simultaneously in a child custody or divorce case. I think the one that parents focus on the most tends to be total time with their children.
Having a structured Visitation schedule with your kids moving forward is simultaneously reassuring and frustrating. I think having a Visitation schedule can be reassuring because you know exactly when you will be able to see your children and for how long these periods of possession will last. You can better plan your schedule, accommodate the needs of the other parent and your children while not worrying about the next time you will see your child. If you have ever had problems with sharing custody of your kids previously, then this should be a welcome development in your life.
By the same token, it may be frustrating for you to share your children's possession with a Co-parent. As of now, you may be used to seeing your kids whenever you want for as long as you want. One of the drawbacks of a child custody or divorce case is that you are opening your life up to the input and authority of a family court. No longer will you be able to come and go as you please with your child. Moving forward, everything depends upon your Co-parent's willingness to participate in shared custody with you and your war ability to follow the terms of a family court order.
This sets the stage for an actual negotiation over Visitation and possession. Like many parents, you want what is best for your child and seek to serve their best interests. The best interest of the child standard is also what a family court would utilize when making decisions regarding any subject related to your kids. Suffice it to say that everyone is looking out for the best interests of your children. Where problems come to be is about differences in opinion over what is and what is not in the best interests of your children. What you think is in your kid's best interest may be very different from what a judge or your Co-parent thinks.
The default setting for a family court in Texas is that both you and your Co-parent have a right to spend time with your children. Furthermore, it is in the best interest of your children to be able to spend time with both of you. The devil, however, is in the details when it comes to dividing time between you and your co-parent. This can be a challenge even if the most "typical" or "orthodox" family structures. It can be even more challenging or burdensome if your family circumstances are far from typical.
What does a typical possession or visitation structure look like across Texas family law cases?
The most common possession schedule as laid out in a Texas family law case is known as a standard possession order. A standard possession order seeks to provide both parents of a child with a structured and consistent level of interaction with their children. This does not mean that both parents have equal time with the child, however. Well, I've not done a precise examination of time between parents and standard possession order. A primary conservator has possession of their child 55% of the time in a standard possession order, while a possessory conservator has possession of the remaining 45% of the year.
A standard possession order seeks to maximize the opportunities of both you and your Co-parent to spend time with your children throughout the year. A primary conservator will be able to designate the primary residence of the children. That is the parent who will have possession of the kids approximately 55% of the year. The disparity in possession time comes primarily from how the children are throughout the school year, which encompasses a majority of the calendar year.
On the other hand, if you are named the possessory conservator of your children, you will be able to have visitation rights to the kids throughout the year and extended Visitation opportunities in the summertime. Whether you are the possessory or the primary conservator, you will be able to alternate Holidays, including Thanksgiving and Christmas. Christmas is split into two Holidays, with the first half including Christmas and a second half including the New Year's holiday. Thanksgiving break is alternated each year depending on whether or not it is an odd or even year. The same applies to spring break.
However, whatever your family law order ultimately states, the final power to make changes and adjustments to the order based on the preferences of the children and you and your Co-parent will be based in negotiation throughout the year. This is a double-edged sword. You should not anticipate being able to make changes along the way with your ex-spouse or Co-parent. By this, I mean that you should negotiate as hard as you can for what you believe is in the best interest of your children during your divorce or child custody case. Do not assume that you can make changes on the fly that benefit you or the kids once your case is over.
However, you should also not take advantage of opportunities during the year to work with your Co-parent to make temporary modifications where need be. For example, if you have parents who live in another state who occasionally will need your assistance or help, then you should not hesitate to work with your Co-parent to see if you can alternate weekends of Visitation or take on additional parenting time at other times of the year in case you need to leave to spend time with your parents and cannot take your children with you.
Likewise, it would be best if you were flexible enough to understand that your ex-spouse or Co-parent will require some grace in this area. Unfortunately, I've encountered many parents who believe that their Co-parents should be incredibly flexible with their time but that they have no need to be the same way with their own time when it comes to flexibility and understanding the changes that may need to be made to a possession order on the fly. A little bit of understanding and putting yourself in the other person's shoes could go a long way towards helping you and your family make the most out of your possession schedule.
What are the different types of possession or Visitation that can be put into effect for your family?
We have already talked about the most common type of possession schedule in Texas family law cases: possession order or modified standard possession order. However, the circumstances and facts of your family law case may call for a different setup in terms of parenting time and scheduling. In this section of today's blog post, we're going to talk about those different types of possession orders and how they can impact your family.
In the vast majority of Texas family law cases, you and your Co-parent will be named as joint managing conservatory. Joint managing conservators not only shared their time with the kids somewhat equally but also shared the parenting rights and duties. This goes along with the idea that it is presumed that a child will benefit from having access to both parents throughout the year, even if those parents are not living in the same household.
Although joint managing conservator's typically do not share rights and duties to the kids in an exact even fashion, they do share fairly even fashion across the board except when it comes to things like the right to determine the primary residence of the children as well as the right to receive child support. Medical, educational, and other decisions are usually made in tandem as a team. This forces parents to work together and truly co-parent even after difficult circumstances associated with a child custody or divorce case.
However, some families may find themselves in a position where a sole managing conservatorship is set up instead of a joint managing conservatorship. Under a sole managing conservatorship, right in duties are typically held more strongly with a managing conservator rather than with a possessory conservator. In many instances, the managing conservator who acts as a sole caretaker will have more opportunities to spend time with the children. Perhaps instead of having possession of the children every other weekend, parents will have possession of the children throughout the school week and most weekends throughout the year.
You may be wondering how your family could find itself in a position where one parent is named a sole managing conservator while the other is left at a deficit in terms of rights and duties in time. There are two main scenarios for this type of arrangement to come to be. The first is when one parent works or even lives out of Texas or even outside the United States. In those types of circumstances, the out-of-state or out-of-country parent is unable from a feasibility perspective to weigh in when it comes to the important decisions in their child's life. In that case, it would make sense to allow for the parents residing in Texas with whom the children live primarily to make decisions on a primary basis.
Travel, as well, can be difficult to manage when it comes to having small children travel out of state. For that reason, Visitation may be restricted to two particular times of the year. For example, you may see families under a sole managing conservatorship allocate a month or even six weeks of straight possession for the possessory Conservatory in the summer months. This allows the parent to take advantage of as much time as possible with their children while not disrupting their school and extracurricular schedule throughout the year.
Another circumstance in which you're failing might find itself looking at a sole managing conservatorship is if you or your Co-parent has a drug or alcohol problem. This type of scenario cuts to the core of what is not in your children's best interest. It is difficult to near impossible to make an argument that your children and their best interests are served by spending time with you on a significant basis when you have an addiction to drugs or alcohol.
What can happen next? The most likely outcome is that you and your co-parent during your family law case would need to be able to work together to negotiate a settlement when it comes to Visitation time. It is unreasonable to believe that your Co-parent will allow for traditional or standard possession orders to go into place in your case. If there are concerns about your ability to remain sober, that puts into question your willingness or ability to do things like keep your home safe and not drive under the influence of alcohol or drugs. This cuts to the core of whether or not you can spend time with your children.
Supervised Visitation in a Texas family log case
if you are beginning your journey towards sobriety, you may be best suited to have supervised visitation with your children initially. Supervised Visitation means that your children will be able to spend time with you at predesignated periods that are typically short. These shorter periods reflect an unwillingness of your Co-parent to leave you with the children for longer periods due to a risk to their safety. This may be a shot to your pride as a parent. Still, you need to sift through your situation to determine if you honestly think you can care for your children without supervision over long periods.
Supervised Visitation typically takes place in two ways: the first would be at a supervised Visitation facility, And the second would be with a family member or friend performing the supervision. In Southeast Texas, many facilities will host Visitation sessions between you and your child while you have supervised Visitation assigned to you. Your family court order would reflect the dates, time, and location of the supervised Visitation that you have to ensure that an employee of these facilities is available to supervise the Visitation.
You would be able to spend time one on one with your child, bring food and snacks, and other games to enjoy while at this recreation facility. It can feel uncomfortable to have another person over your shoulder looking at you while performing your parenting duties. Still, your situation may demand this type of accommodation be made. Don't think of it as a step down in your parenting life but rather as an opportunity to literally and figuratively step up to more time with your children.
Stairstep Visitation in Texas family law cases
the main concept behind stairstep Visitation in family law cases is that once you begin with supervised Visitation, you can graduate into more independent Visitation with your child. This means that you could eventually move from a supervised Visitation facility to having supervised Visitation with a friend or family member at a park or someone's home, having solo Visitation unsupervised with your child for a few hours here and there and eventually building yourself a position schedule where you can have your child overnight and over the weekend.
While it can be frustrating to have limited opportunities to visit with your child in the immediate sense, it can also be rewarding to see yourself grow as a parent and grow in your sobriety or improve whatever facet of your life needs improvement during this time. Rather than getting frustrated at yourself, your circumstances, or even your children, it is best to focus on the end goal and think about what your life will be like once these restrictions on your Visitation are removed. The power to improve in this area is in your hands. What you choose to do with these opportunities is completely up to you.
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 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 and how your family may be impacted by the filing of a child custody or divorce case.