If you are a parent going through a divorce, it’s only natural to worry about your children. Regardless of how you feel about your marriage, you always want the best for them. This includes custody arrangements. If you and your spouse are on good terms, you may feel that it is best for the kids if the two have a 50/50 possession schedule. This arrangement certainly is doable, but there are some potential complications. This blog will help explain 50/50 custody requirements in Texas. It also may help you decide if this arrangement is best for you.
What is the Difference Between Custody and Conservatorship?
Let’s start with a quick explanation. “Custody” has two pieces. Physical custody refers to who the children live with. The other parent usually has visitation rights. Legal custody refers to having the authority to help make decisions for the children regarding their education, medical care, and general well-being.
However, the Texas Family Code does not use the term “custody.” Instead, they use the term conservator. If the parents share decision-making authority, they are called joint managing conservators. This custody arrangement is called a parenting plan.
So your friends and family may ask about “the custody arrangements.” But your attorney and the court will discuss conservatorship and the parenting plan. There is no practical difference, it is just a matter of terms. And a 50/50 parenting plan means that the children will spend an equal amount of time with each parent.
Some Judges Do Not Like 50/50 Custody Arrangements
Even though courts focus on the best interests of the child, some judges do not like 50/50 custody in Texas. They are more inclined to follow the Standard Possession Order. This document gives one parent “superior right to possession,” and gives the other parent lesser custody.
In addition, The Texas Family Code Section 153.002 states: “The best interest of the child shall always be the primary consideration of the court in determining the issues of conservatorship and possession of and access to the child.” What’s more, it’s possible that the associate judge will agree to this possession schedule, only to have the district judge reject it.
This means that you should never just “assume” that the court is going to divide child custody equally between you and your spouse. We advise you to be prepared to explain why you want this custody arrangement. More important, you must be able to explain why it is in the best interest of your kids.
Make Sure You Know Why You Want a 50/50 Custody Arrangement in Texas
Spouses have different reasons for wanting an equally divided parenting plan. But some reasons are better than others.
For example, if you want a 50/50 custody arrangement in Texas in order to avoid paying child support, you are likely to be disappointed. In most cases, one spouse makes more money than the other—sometimes, a lot more. So even if the children are splitting time equally between the two households, one parent will likely have to pay some amount of child support.
Similarly, if you want the 50/50 custody arrangement simply because it is more “convenient” for you, you’re again likely to be disappointed. As we have learned, the court doesn’t care if the
50 schedule “works best for you.” What matters is what works best for your children.
There are Different Types of 50/50 Custody Arrangements in Texas
Although a 50/50 means equal time, the possession schedule can vary greatly. Here are the three most common arrangements:
- Every other week: The child spends one week with one parent, and the next week with the other parent, alternating back and forth.
- Midweek: The parents exchange the child on Thursday and Sunday evenings. Usually, they adjust the schedule so that they can alternate weekend possession.
- 2-2-3: The child spends the first two days of the week with one parent, the next two days with the second parent, and the weekend with the first parent. The next week, the parents exchange schedules.
Pros and Cons of the Different 50/50 Custody Arrangements
The midweek and 2-2-3 schedules are nice because the parent and child are never apart from each other for very long. The parent and child know they will be seeing each other every two or three days. This can help maintain closeness, especially in the time right after the divorce.
The downside of these arrangements is probably obvious: There is a lot of exchanging going on. This can be confusing for the parents—”My goodness, I did not realize it was already Tuesday. I’m supposed to take you to your dad’s house tonight.” This plan can be just as confusing for the kids. They may have trouble remembering where they are sleeping that night.
This 50/50 custody arrangement can make it difficult for everyone to get into a routine. If you’ve ever traveled for business, you know how disorienting it can be. Now imagine doing that every week.
The advantage to the week-on, week-off possession schedule is that the child and parent have time to settle in. This can be particularly helpful in families where the children are busy with sports or other after-school activities.
Of course, this possession schedule also has drawbacks. For one, it means the parent and child will go a full week without seeing each other. Another problem is that just when the child is starting to feel settled, it is time to pack up and move to a different home.
Every family is different, so it is up to you and your spouse to decide which arrangement will work best for you and your children. Of course, the judge also will have a say.
Best Reasons for a 50/50 Custody Arrangement in Texas
Here are three great reasons to have a 50/50 parenting plan:
- Unequal custody may threaten the important and meaningful role you play in the lives of your children after the divorce;
- It is important for your spouse to continue to play an important and meaningful role in the lives of your children after the divorce;
- You believe that having both of you equally involved in the lives of the children is in their best interests.
It also may help to know that the Texas Family Code also says this: “It is the policy of this state to encourage frequent contact between a child and each parent for periods of possession that optimize the development of a close and continuing relationship between each parent and child.”
Obstacles to a 50/50 Possession Schedule
Some issues can severely hurt your chances of a 50/50 custody arrangement. Specifically, if your child is under the age of three, the court will be inclined to make the mother the primary conservator. This is not a reflection on the parenting skills of the father. The simple fact is that if the mother is breastfeeding, it’s easier if the baby is with her.
Also, while the court will focus on what is in the best interests of the children, you must also consider your own situation. The truth is, a 50/50 custody arrangement in Texas can work only if both parents live relatively close together, and if neither parent has a difficult work schedule. A case in point, if you must be at work by 7 a.m. every day without exception, it will complicate your plan.
You should also know that the court will be looking at your previous activity. For example, if you have been working 60- and 70-weeks for the last couple of years, your request to have equal time with the kids is likely to be met with skepticism.
Last but far from least, for this custody arrangement to work, you and your spouse must be able to work together cooperatively.
For our armed forces personnel, a quick note of good news. The court permits active-duty personnel stationed overseas to name a person to “cover for you” during your deployment. Usually, this person is a grandparent, and when you return, you will have the opportunity to “make up” for this lost time. An experienced divorce attorney can be very helpful in these matters.
You Can Draft Your Own 50/50 Custody Arrangement
You and your spouse may be able to increase your chances by coming up with your own parenting plan. While there is no guarantee the court will accept your proposal, it does show that the two of you are working together and sincere about trying to do what is best for your children. In fact, The Texas Family Code also states:
“It is the policy of this state to encourage frequent contact between a child and each parent for periods of possession that optimize the development of a close and continuing relationship between each parent and child.”
Another tip: Once you have filed for divorce, the judge usually issues temporary orders until the divorce is finalized. If the judge will agree to a 50/50 custody arrangement then, he or she may be willing to continue this arrangement in the final decree. Courts tend to like stability, including the stability of a parenting plan. While the two of you can draft this plan entirely on your own, a family law attorney can be an excellent resource in navigating the finer points of the law.
Custody Arrangements Can Be Changed at a Later Time
The divorce decree and custody arrangement are generally considered permanent. But because life is always changing, parenting plans also can change. For instance, you might realize that you really don’t have enough time for a 50/50 custody arrangement in Texas. Or you may have concerns about your ex, and want him or her to have less time with the children.
To change your custody arrangement in Texas, you will need to get a court order modification. This usually requires you to hire an attorney. We also encourage you to read our blog on how to get sole custody in Texas.
You Need a Trusted Divorce Attorney On Your Side—Even When You and Your Spouse Are Working Together
Even if you and your spouse are in general agreement on your divorce, an experienced attorney can help. Our Fort Worth, Texas, attorneys are very experienced in both divorce and custody cases. The attorneys of The Maynard Law Firm, PLLC, are very experienced in divorce cases, including handling custody arrangements in Texas. You want to do what’s best for your children, and we want to help you. Contact us today at 817-335-9600.