The standard possession order, or SPO for short, is the most typical manner by which parents in Texas divided time between themselves and their children as the result of a child custody or divorce case. Whether a judge hands down orders to you after a trial or you and your co-parent negotiate through these orders yourselves in mediation an SPO is the tried-and-true method of dividing up parenting time for people after a family law case. While you may not follow the standard possession order exactly as it is laid out in the family code, most people do implement aspects of an SPO in their case.
Here are the hallmarks of an SPO for those of you who are scratching your heads about what it is that we are talking about. Under an SPO parents are designated as either being the primary conservator of the possessory conservator. The possessory conservator does not live with the kids primarily. You as the possessory conservator would have visitation rights and the kids would live with your co-parent during the school year. Weekend visitation occurs on the first, third, and fifth weekends of each month. Holidays would alternate between you and your co-parent.
Overall, decisions are made in a family law case based on the best interest of your child. That is the specific legal standard that the family court judge in your case would consider when it comes to making any decision regarding a child. This could be about child custody, conservatorships, child support, and a range of other topics. The best interests of your child should consider their current state, there are future needs as well as mental and physical health.
What are some of the advantages of having a standard possession order?
just because a possession order is rather a cookie cutter does not mean that it doesn't have certain advantages for those who choose to employ this method of dividing up parenting time. Certainly, it provides more accountability than you may have had when no court order was in place. For instance, if you are a father who has constantly missed out on time with your children because your child's mother would not allow you to see him or her then any kind of custody arrangement with the judge's backing is better than nothing at all. While it's in your possession order is not creative it does allow for you to have time with your child.
Additionally, it does provide you with a certain degree of predictability when it comes to being able to see your child. The first, 3rd, and 5th weekends of each month or a time that you and your child know that you will be able to get together and be with one another. on the other hand, if you are a parent who has had problems with your Co-parent taking advantage of visitation time with your children then having a standard possession order at least provides your Co-parent with a predictable setup time to see your children.
Many parents begin a family law case with the idea that it would be better for their Co-parent to not be involved in their child's life. This typically comes from a mindset that focuses on eliminating distractions and stress for you. However, there is a presumption in Texas family law that children benefit from being able to have sustained interaction with both parents. With that said, benefiting your child and taking some of the stress off of you in terms of daily responsibilities for your child is not a bad thing period ultimately, you want someone to be shouldering the load with you rather than just bearing it all on your own.
What are some disadvantages to having a standard possession order?
The predictability and standardization of an SPO typically do not work well for you if you are a firefighter, first responder, or another person who Has a job based around shift work. Not only is shift work made more difficult when it comes to a standard possession order but working second and third shift makes it even tougher. Since your kids are in school or do other activities during the day you need to be present with them at night. However, working as a firefighter doesn't exactly make that easy.
You also need to consider the ages of your children when it comes to Considering a standard possession order. For instance, If you have very young children then a senior position order may not work as well as other types of visitation. The reason for this is that your kids are not yet in school, and a standard possession order is created to accommodate school-aged children. Additionally, if you have teenagers then your teenagers may prefer to have visitation that does not require back and forth during the week. The key point for them is that teenage children can provide their transportation in these strict pickup and drop-off times and locations may not be as necessary for them.
One of the other key points that you as a firefighter need to keep in mind is that if you and your Co-parent have shown an ability to work together to come up with solutions then you may want to use this in your possession order. By that I mean you could use a standard possession order as a fallback if you and your Co-parent cannot agree on custody questions throughout the year. Many times, the extracurricular activities, day-to-day desires, and other events of your life will dictate visitation and possession of her family. In that case, you can work with your Co-parent on creating but custody arrangement in the schedule based on the week-to-week needs of your family and do not necessarily have to go by your standard possession order unless other arrangements can be worked out.
What can you do as a firefighter should not be put in a situation where standard possession order is implemented by a family court judge?
One of the first considerations for you as a firefighter is not getting stuck with a visitation arrangement that is not ideal for your child and you. If you and your spouse are not able to negotiate through issues regarding visitation then your case will go to a trial period and that intuition both you and your Co-parent would submit evidence to a judge and the judge would decide on visitation issues that are in the best interest of your child. Probably the first point that you can argue regarding why a standard possession order does not work well for your family is that you as a firefighter would not be able to take advantage of the time allotted to you in the order. The nature of your work schedule prevents you from being able to be present at 6:00 PM on a Friday and 6:00 PM on a Sunday most of the time. For Someone Like You, a more flexible arrangement where you could submit times to your Co-parent at the beginning of the month Not all families will be able to accommodate something like this but it will be preferable for you to be able to work with your Co-parent on this level rather than to have to abide by a court order that does not take into consideration the needs of your work schedule.
Rather, having a schedule that caters to your unique needs as a firefighter is essential 4 creating an ongoing parent-child relationship that is destined to thrive and succeed. From the perspective of your Co-parent, he or she may be unwilling to negotiate with you on this to a great extent. From their perspective why would he or she want to do something that is only in your best interest and not necessarily in their best interest? This is a faulty way of thinking in multiple regards. For one, it is better to do what is best for the kids rather than for themselves. Thinking about your children primarily is a better way to approach things than to think about themselves first period
Next, ultimately your Co-parent is going to be better off with having an arrangement that allows for you to have consistent possession and visitation with your children that is not an ongoing issue. Consider that while it may feel good to win at a negotiation towards the beginning of your case you should have an arrangement that suits your family in the long term. I can't tell you how often I talk to people who wish that they had negotiated issues like custody and possession of their children differently during the initial stages of a divorce case. This is something for you to keep an eye on in your case.
A flexible and unique schedule may include a requirement that you submit your schedule for work to your ex-spouse within a certain amount of time after having received it. From there, the two of you can work out a schedule that makes sense. Maybe your order allows you to have a certain number of days each month with no set schedule. Once you get your work schedule sent out you and your co-parent can work together to create a schedule that works best for the two of you but especially for your child.
What do the best interests of your child call for in this case?
As we mentioned earlier in the blog post it is necessary to consider your child’s best interest when determining a custody schedule or possession arrangement. Multiple statutes in the family code may be relevant to you as a firefighter seeking an atypical custody arrangement. The SPO is presumed to be in the best interests of your children. However, the court is given a great deal of authority to implement orders that are not in line with a standard possession order.
If you will be asking a judge to give you more time with your kids than would be in place under an SPO then you should also consider that the public policy of our state is geared towards allowing for parents and children to be able to have frequent contact with one another. Most important for your situation, the court should be interested in that possession schedules should optimize the development of a close and continuing relationship between you and your child. Being able to make sure that your child is available to see you as frequently as your schedule allows is ideal.
The SPO lays out a schedule that is the minimum amount of time that can be expected of a possessory conservator to take advantage of. This does not mean that the judge should only consider an SPO just because of your work. This is a baseline for possession time for you and your children. If you can show the judge that you have a willingness and ability to spend time with your children greater than under an SPO then that should be considered, as well.
What about if you are arguing for less time than under an SPO?
There are also statutes in the family code that could lead a judge to believe that a firefighter parent may not serve the best interests of a child by asking for an SPO. Do you have a special role within the fire department where you are constantly on call- such that you cannot commit to having your children as often as you would be able under an SPO? In that case, you or your co-parent would be likely to argue that an SPO type arrangement for custody is not in the best interests of your child.
A safe and stable environment is also important for children- especially for children under the age of three. For kids of this type of age being able to reliably see their parents is important to development. Judges would have a tough time ordering custody under an SPO for a parent who cannot commit to that level of possession time. For younger children, an SPO may not make as much sense if only because the order does not consider the needs of younger children primarily. An SPO is designed around the needs of school-aged children.
Be intentional and be specific
When you are in a position where you are needing to argue against the implementation of an SPO in your child custody case then you need to be well prepared. An SPO is a default setting for family court judges. If it becomes apparent that a default custody arrangement will not work for you then it is likely that the judge would move away from this sort of possession order. This is true whether you are trying to argue that you should have either less or more time with your children than an SPO. Be sure to work with your attorney to make it abundantly clear why the evidence you are setting forth shows why you should get what you are asking for. Do not expect a judge to make that connection on their own. Make it plain as day to him or her.
If you are sitting across the courtroom from a firefighter as their spouse, then you should take heed of this perspective. For example, suppose that you have a toddler at home. If you believe that your spouse’s firefighting schedule prevents him or her from providing your child with the care and stability that is in the child’s best interests, then this is a point you should make. Whether your child has ever spent the night at another person’s house or even is still breastfeeding is a major issue, as well.
Another major issue to consider is whether have you an alternative possession schedule ready to go in a trial for a judge to consider. This is also important when it comes to mediation. Do not just plan on going into either of these settings being a contrarian. Have an alternative for the court or your spouse to consider.
When it comes to negotiating issues related to a firefighter's divorce with chill You need to be able to have experienced counsel by your side. Having a lawyer who can understand the law, your circumstances, and how the two of these factors relate to one another is incredibly important. Fortunately for you, the attorneys with the law office of Brian Fagan are available 6 days a week to meet with you to discuss the issues regarding your case. Whether you are a firefighter or a firefighter spouse the availability of a local attorney to serve your needs cannot be understated in importance.
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 as well as about how your family circumstances may be impacted by the filing of a divorce or child custody case.