Many people often ask me if family law is difficult to practice and my answer is always, “Unfortunately, yes.” The main reason for the difficulty? Custody battles—two people fighting over a child that the judge cannot ultimately cut in two and hand a half to each party. If you are separating from your significant other and wondering how the separation is going to affect the child, understand that the separation will inevitably be a hardship on the child. The reality is, it will be hard on the child even if you choose to co-parent. So, think about how your child would be affected if you chose not to try and co-parent with the other party and just “fight it out in court.” While I advocate tenaciously for my clients in every situation presented, I always try to advise them to work with the other party as much as they can when it comes to dealing with issues regarding the child. Your child will thank you when they are old enough to understand the huge sacrifice you made by being agreeable instead of contentious with the other parent. Also, many courts commend parties on their ability to work things out without a hearing. When a judge takes the time to recognize the parties’ hard work in the case, it is always nice to hear.
Parenting Plan—Aka Agreed Visitation Schedule
You may now be asking, “If I am going to be agreeable, where do I even start?” First of all, I want to congratulate you on even attempting this feat. I know that it is hard to do this considering you have decided to no longer be in a relationship with this person. But, remember that your child did not get a choice in this and so you are doing great. In choosing this, the first step is developing a parenting plan that is best for all parties involved (including the child). This sometimes means that you will have to get creative; but, that is okay. Why? Because you are getting the chance that not many parents get in these types of cases—you get to formulate a visitation schedule that fits your needs as well as your child’s. If you cannot do this, you will have a judge (who is a complete stranger, mind you) pick a textbook one for you. Yes, you read that correctly. The Texas Family Code typically only allows for two visitation schedules for separating parents. In extenuating circumstances, the courts can stray from these schedules; absent something like that, either the standard possession schedule or expanded standard possession schedule are the typical scenarios. This means that if you and the other parent cannot agree upon your possession schedule, then this will happen: one parent is named as the parent who has the exclusive right to designate the primary residence of the child (this is who the child lives with primarily of the time) and the other parent gets either (a) the first, third, and fifth weekends of every month beginning at 6:00 p.m. on Fridays and ending at 6:00 p.m. on Sundays; every Thursday during the school year from 6:00 p.m. until 8:00 p.m.; or (b) the first, third, and fifth weekends of every month beginning when school is dismissed on Fridays and ending when school resumes after the weekend; every Thursday during the school year beginning when school is dismissed and ending when school resumes Friday. Also, there will be summer visitation, spring break visitation and alternating holiday schedules. Most parents feel that this just is not enough time with their child. It is gut-wrenching to watch a parent let the reality sink in that they can only see their child on certain days. What can do you about this?
Possible Alternative Options to Standard Possession
If your child is in school and you know their schedule, including extracurricular activities, you can split up the time among the parents. Some possible schedules that family law practitioners utilize for agreeable parents are week on/week off, 2-2-3 or something of that nature. Week on/week off is just as its term indicates, the parents alternate weeks throughout most of the year and have a holiday schedule in place. This allows pretty much equal time between the parents and parents typically exchange the child on Sundays. The 2-2-3 schedule is similar in that it also allows pretty equal time among the parents; the difference is that it’s a more frequent exchange of the child in that one parent has Mondays/Tuesdays, the other Wednesdays/Thursdays and then the parents alternate Fridays-Sundays. This schedule is more ideal for smaller children who need that more frequent contact between parents. Some parents like this schedule because the child does not go too long in seeing each parent.
Get Legal Assistance
Despite this advice, I do understand that there are just some cases where none of this is possible. I have handled many challenging cases throughout my career and agreements could not be considered. But, those cases involved severe issues with respect to the child. If your case does not present facts where agreements are out of the question, then your child deserves for you to sit down with the other parent and try to work this portion of your case out. Contact my office today to schedule a consultation to explore your options. I would love to be able to facilitate an agreement between you and the other parent that would carry you into a positive outcome for everyone involved. Courtney Repka Wortham, PLLC is ready and able to assist you in all of your family law needs.