“To be in your children’s memories tomorrow, you have to be in their lives today.” Anonymous
The most precious assets in a divorce are the children. The end of a marriage, and the transitioning from one household to two, necessitates determining with whom the children will live and when and how visitation will be exercised.
Courts prefer that the parents agree as to the custody and visitation of the children. If the parents are unable to agree then the Court will issue an order based on what the Court determines is in “the best interest of the child.” In making this decision the court looks at the following factors:
- Age and sex of the child
- Relationship between the parents and the child (and siblings, if any)
- The capacity and resources to provide the child with food, clothing, medical care and other necessary care
- The age, physical and mental health, stability, character of the parents
- The preferences of the child, if the court deems the child physically and mentally mature enough to make such decisions (usually age 12)
- Evidence of abuse or domestic violence
- Who has been the primary care taker of the child
- Special needs of the child
- Any other relevant factors
The courts favor “joint custody” called “joint conservatorship”. This does not necessarily mean that each parent will get an equal amount of time with their children. It merely means that each parent may have an equal say on major decisions regarding the children’s welfare, such as medical or educational decisions. Although joint conservatorship is favored, if it is in the best interest of the child the court may order sole conservatorship.
If the parties cannot agree on a visitation schedule the Texas Family Code presumes that it is in the best interest of the child to enter a “Standard Possession Schedule”. This schedule permits for weekend visitation, a couple of hours on one weeknight, alternating holiday visitation and summer visitation. When possible the parties should try to establish a visitation schedule that fits their individual needs and works well for both parties and the children involved.
There are several common possession schedules. The most common is the Standard Possession Order. Increasing in popularity is the Expanded Standard Possession Order which permits a few more overnights. Additionally, there are a two different Shared Parenting Possession Orders gaining popularity. Lastly, there are numerous creative schedules that accommodate unusual work schedules. Our experienced family lawyers can assist in drafting a creative schedule that accommodates your family.
In the Standard Possession Order the children reside primary with one parent and visit the other parent:
- on the first, third and fifth weekends throughout the year from Friday at 6:00 p.m. to Sunday at 6:00 p.m.;
- on Thursdays during the regular school term from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.;
- spring break in even numbered years from 6:00 p.m. on the day school is dismissed for spring break and ending at 6:00 p.m. on the day before school resumes;
- thirty days in the summer; and
- alternating holidays
The Expanded Standard Possession Order is the same as the Standard Possession Order except that the parent receives the children when they are dismissed from school to begin the visitation time and they return the children to school at the end of the visitation period. For example, the parent picks up on their weekends from school or daycare and returns them on Monday when school or daycare resumes. Also, Thursday is increased from two hours to being an overnight visitation period.
Two of the most common Shared Parenting Possession Orders are:
- Alternating possession for one week at a time.
- The 2-2-5 schedule which provides for one parent to have Monday and Tuesday overnight each week and the other parent to have Wednesday and Thursday overnight each week and they alternate which parent has Friday through Sunday each week.
Our divorce and family law attorneys are skilled at drafting a parenting plan that creatively fits your individual situation. Contact our office today to get an evaluation of your case.