50-50 POSSESSION IN TEXAS
One of the questions I receive most often in my law practice is, “If I go to court, can I get 50-50 child custody with my kids.” In my experience as a Central Texas Family Lawyer I have only had three cases in 13 years where the judge ordered a 50-50 child custody arrangement. All three of these cases were people who had been separated, found a 50-50 possession schedule online or from their friends and had been exercising it for a considerable amount of time prior to the court hearing. Judges typically follow the Texas Family Code and assign one parent as the conservator who has the exclusive right to designate the primary residence. This right is what people refer to as “custody” of my child. The person who designates the primary residence of the child is the custodial parent. The non-custodial parent will be awarded possession of the child.
Typical 50-50 Possession Schedule
The most common 50-50 possession schedule is a 5-2-2-5. The basic framework looks like this:
Typically in an Austin child custody arrangement one parent is designated to have every Monday/Tuesday and the other parent is designated to have every Wednesday/Thursday. The weekends alternate and the parents exercise every-other weekend. When drafting these orders I like to have the ending times for each parent be at the time school is dismissed, or at 6:00 p.m. if school is not in session. This allows parents flexibility if their child wakes up on a school day and is sick to stay at home rather than having to rush around looking for the other parent in the morning. Doing the exchange in the afternoon allows for an easier transition. Thanksgiving, Christmas, Spring Break, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and extended summer visitation (typically agreed upon by the parents or split in even-increments of 14, 21, or 30 days) trump any of the regularly scheduled week.
In order to keep parents from exercising an entire Thanksgiving period of possession and then immediately having the weekend after Thanksgiving, I like to have an order for a Reset Provision. This reset provision states that any person who has Thanksgiving, the second half of Christmas, Spring Break or exercising any extended summer shall not have the following weekend after those events. This allows the parent who was not in possession of the children during those times to have the first weekend following those events.
50-50 Vs. Expanded Standard
Although judges orders typically do not include 50-50 possession schedules, the Texas Family Code calls for Expanded Standard Possession of children for non-custodial parents. I wrote about what Expanded Standard Possession is in a previous blog post. The difference between Expanded Standard Possession and a 50-50 Possession Schedule is one mid-week period of possession. Instead of only having Thursday overnights and the 1,3,5th weekends, 50-50 allows for a parent to have Wednesday overnight in addition to the Expanded Standard Possession. When trying to get agreements for 50-50 vs. Expanded Standard I try to give expectations and real world time frames for what it is that is being fought for. For example, although it is an “extra” night per week, it only occurs during the school year in most cases and even if it did occur during the summer, a lot of these extra mid-weeks don’t occur because of holidays and summer possession. Thanksgiving, Christmas, Spring Break and extended Summer Possession knock out at least 10 mid-week periods over the course of the year. It’s important to keep this in mind when deciding on litigating this issue or working towards a settlement in mediation.
Exercising a 50-50 possession child custody schedule with the ability to co-parent is one of the most beneficial things that can happen to a child whose parents are no longer living together. The stability of the schedule and ample amount of time spent with each parent helps ensure their emotional well-being is being cared for. A 50-50 schedule allows parents to enjoy in their children’s school, extracurricular activities and weekend plans as much as the other parent. If you have questions about obtaining a 50-50 schedule please contact Newberry Law, PLLC to request a consultation with a board certified Austin child custody lawyer.