One of the most stressful parts of a child custody or divorce case is figuring out possession, visitation, and scheduling issues regarding your children. Probably the most important and hotly contested topic about your children is that of spending time with them. For many parents, the time you spend with your kids is the most important thing by far in a child custody or divorce case. Every other subject takes a backseat and is less important. With that said, how you structure your time and the specific days you spent time with your children matters a great deal.
For instance, not only is it important for you to be able to spend as much time as possible with your children after a divorce or child custody case, but it is also critical for you to be able to structure your time with them so that both you and your children can take full advantage of the opportunities to grow in your relationship with one another. Many parents who come to me at the beginning of a child custody or divorce case will say that they want to spend more time with their kids. I will tell these folks that while this is a noble goal, it is not very concrete that we will need to work on getting your case to a point where you can have a more tangible goal when it comes to custody and possession of your case kids.
For starters, a standard possession order is the most straightforward and most typical of all the custody and visitation arrangements in a Texas divorce or child custody case. A standard possession order allows the nonpossessory parent to spend time with the kids on a predetermined schedule every year. The hallmarks of a standard possession order have possession of the kids on the first, 3rd, and 5th weekends of every month and alternating holidays from year to year. Even if the nonprimary conservator only has possession of the kids on these weekends and all training holidays, then they are in a strong position as far as being able to see the children upwards of 45% of a year. This is much different from what many people believe the nonprimary parent can have.
The standard possession order provides a predictable and straightforward schedule for parents to follow as far as custody with their children is concerned. One of the more common complaints that I received from parents before the end of the family law cases was that they had no predictability regarding the schedule they would have with their children. Many parents believed that they would never achieve any consistency or stability with seeing their children. They were more or less content to take the time that they were given and consider themselves lucky.
Frankly, much of the time, this is how fathers feel before beginning a Texas family law case. Fathers who are not the primary conservator of their children sometimes will have a take what they can get an attitude when it comes to seeing their children. These fathers will almost always believe that they can see their children only when the mother allows them to. This is despite paying child support and not having done anything to provide a threat to their children as far as their safety is concerned. The assumption is that fathers take what they can get with time and will move on from there. My advice to fathers frequently is to aggressively negotiate for as much time with their children as possible and not be content with the bare minimum regarding spending time with your children.
For instance, many fathers are willing to receive less time with their children if they will not upset their child's mother. This is likely due to a history of the mother has been very angry over issues regarding visitation in custody. Whatever the cause of the trepidation regarding Cassidy, it is important for you and your family to understand that you do not have to be content with this type of time with your children. Rather, you can take the initiative and negotiate for as much time as you would like with your children. It doesn't matter if you are the mother or father of your kids.
When it comes to the hallmarks of a standard possession order, the first thing that jumps out to most people is weekend visitation. Most children being of school-age parents understand that there are limited opportunities to see children during the school year. As a result, many parents desire time with their children during weekends and holidays. What does it take to ensure consistent periods of possession during weekends and holidays? Let's discuss that topic before we go any further.
Tips for helping to ensure effective transitions for the weekend and holiday visitation
One of the most important recommendations that I will make to two people regarding weekend and holiday visitation is that you have to be willing to extend grace 21 another as far as you and your Co-parent are concerned. The reality of sharing position time with your Co-parent is concerned is that things never go as smoothly with transitions, drop off and pick up as they may in a child custody order. Traffic is the bad period people are late. People get sick. Jobs require you to work late or even work on weekends. This is a reality for all of us. Next, sending some grace to your Co-parent to allow them to deal with a difficult schedule or change in their routine can go a long way towards helping your family.
So, if you receive a phone call at 4:30 on a Friday afternoon and are told by your Co-parent that the kids will not be ready at exactly 6:00 for pick up from your home, then you should not immediately jump to the conclusion that your Co-parent is trying to harm you or limit your time with your kids. Rather, you should reasonably ask questions and not necessarily assume that the other person is acting purposely against you in some way.
I try to impart to clients on this subject that you should not assume malice when negligence is the better explanation. Sometimes accidents happen. People forget about changes in the schedule or issues regarding their work history or upcoming schedule problems. As a result, someone may be late for pick up or drop off, and that includes you. So many problems can come from this situation if you do not consider your family's specific needs. Rather, take a step back and think about the situation for what it is, especially if your Co-parent has never displayed a prior history of limiting your time with your children.
This may sound like simplistic or overly good-natured advice. However, I do think that sometimes stopping to consider the full circumstances of a situation are important. There is nothing worse for a relationship than jumping to the conclusion that is not accurate based on the emotions that you may be experiencing. While many people involved in child custody circumstances do and up with a problem when it comes to harm the other parent's visitation and custody schedule constantly, that is not the norm for most people. It would be best if you considered the full circumstances before jumping to conclusions and blaming your Co-parent unnecessarily for disruptions to your visitation.
How do holidays work under a standard possession order?
As I alluded to a moment ago, holidays are typically alternated on a year-to-year basis by parents under a standard possession order. This means that if you have possession of your kids for Thanksgiving this year, then your Co-parent will likely have possession of your kids Thanksgiving next year. The same applies to spring break. The second baseman is divided up into a first-half any second half. The first half of the Christmas holiday begins when school is let out and ends on the 28th of December. The second half ends at 6:00 PM on the Sunday before school being back in session.
Summer vacation works with parents allowing four extended periods of possession between the child and the nonprimary conservator parent for at least one month during the summertime. This allows parents and children to have extended time together and spend time around the house or even on vacation. Usually, the nonprimary parent must notify the primary parent by the middle of April, notifying them of their desire to take advantage of particular periods of possession during the summertime.
Holidays are significant to all of us. It is not often that we receive additional time to spend with our families and friends in this busy world of ours. As such, families like yours must be able to take advantage of all the time available to you and your children under a divorce or child custody order. As a result, you will want to make sure that you have a plan in mind each year when provided under the court order. It is not good enough to know when your kids will be with you in a general sense. Rather, I recommend having a planning meeting with yourself each year at the beginning of the year. You can then take some time to prepare for those special holiday visits.
Who gets Father’s Day and Mother’s Day weekends?
This may seem like a silly question to ask at first glance. After all, the name of the holiday specifically refers to you and your co-parent by name. There shouldn't be any doubt about which parent will possess the kids during a holiday that bears your name as mother and father, right? If you consider the possibility that Mother's Day weekend may fall on the father's weekend during the standard possession order can cause some confusion for many parents, including yourself. Not wanting to violate the court order, you may decide that it is better to be safe than sorry for visitation with the kids.
Before you decide to do this, it would make sense to learn the fundamentals of holiday visitation. The time with your children is so precious that you do not want to lose any time unnecessarily due to your not having a clear understanding of who gets the kids and when. It is normal to ask questions of your attorney when it comes to your court orders. What is less common is asking questions regarding relatively “minor” issues like this. Not that holiday visitation is minor, but you will probably have other concerns on your mind as you wrap up a divorce or child custody case.
Fortunately, I am here to tell you that if you are a mother, you will have the opportunity to spend Mother's Day weekend with your children. Likewise, if you are a father, you will spend Father's Day weekend with your children. This should put you at peace in learning how to plan your year and understanding how a visitation order functions. You may want to contact your co-parent ahead of time to ensure that they are aware of this. Parents can often lose track of their weekends, including Mother's Day and/or Father's Day. For example, it may make sense for you as a father to email or call your child's mother at the beginning of June to remind her that Father’s Day weekend is approaching.
Closing thoughts on holiday visitation after a child custody or divorce case
As a parent, you have gone through a lot of hardship due to your family law case. It is completely understandable to want nothing more than to never think that hard about anything having to do with your case again. Turning off your brain may sound appealing, but the reality of your situation is that you need to be able to think critically about matters related to several different subjects related to your divorce or child custody case. Making sure that you have cleared up any misconceptions about visitation and holiday custody.
When it comes down to it, an issue regarding who has the kids on what weekend comes down to a simple misunderstanding; the source of that misunderstanding here's what we need to identify in today's blog post. Even though the misunderstanding may be an innocent one, it can surely cause frustration and anger for your family. In the heat of a moment, nobody cares if it is an innocent misunderstanding or not. When frustration hits a boiling point, it is human nature to protect yourself if you feel that you have been wronged.
What does that mean? The easiest way to address a problem like this is to have a copy of your final decree of divorce or child custody orders available at all times in your home. This could mean having a digital copy on your computer or cell phone. It could also mean having a physical copy in your desk drawer. Next, you need to understand what the order has to say. Unless you have a perfect understanding of the order, you should ask as many questions of your attorney before the end of your case as possible. Even after your divorce case is over, your attorney or their staff would likely be willing to answer a question for you. However, the best time to understand your order and ask questions is before the end of your case.
I am confident that if you understand the terms of your order, you will avoid most problems. I'm going to come to misunderstandings about your case's nature. One such misunderstanding may relate to weekend visitation or even regarding problems with the kids during a certain period during the holidays. Taking advantage of every opportunity you have to spend time with your kids is critical to building your relationship. As long as you put forth the effort to know your order and communicate well with your co-parent, you can minimize any disruption in their lives.
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 to learn more about the world of Texas family law. In addition, you can learn about how your family may be impacted by the filing of a divorce or child custody case.