Is a 50/50 Possession Schedule Right for You?
I constantly have clients ask me about a 50/50 possession schedule. Many divorcing parents feel they should be entitled to see their children at least half of the time. Most of them are surprised when I tell them this is not necessarily the case.
Courts determine parents’ possession schedules based on what they feel is in the best interests of the children. Although Texas has a standard possession order that it presumes is the minimum possession schedule that is in the best interest of the children (basically 1st, 3rd, and 5th weekends with alternating holidays and 30 days in the summer), it does not have a maximum. 50/50 possession schedules can be in the best interests of the children, but it takes a lot of effort and cooperation. In other words, you do not (and should not) get a 50/50 possession schedule just because you want it.
I have many clients (both moms and dads) who are exercising 50/50 possession schedules, and the children love it. However, this is not by accident. I advise clients to think long and hard, and to answer the following questions before deciding on a 50/50 possession schedule:
- Why do you want 50/50?
Many people want a 50/50 possession schedule because they think they will not be ordered to pay child support. Not only is this a selfish reason, it is also not necessarily accurate. Even if the parents see the children equally, a court may still make a parent pay child support. This is especially true if there is a significant disparity in income between the parents.
- How well do you and your ex get along?
A 50/50 possession schedule requires a lot of communication between the parents. In a lot of instances, these parents have not gotten along because of a divorce or other conflict that has caused them to go to court. To make a 50/50 possession schedule work, the parents will often have to set their conflict aside for the sake of the children. If they are not able to do that, the schedule may not work.
- How do you feel about your ex as a parent?
I have asked to many people over the years, and have gotten answers across the board. I even ask this to opposing parties in court who think they are entitled to a 50/50 possession schedule. In those cases, they typically can’t stop talking about how horrible their ex (or soon-to-be ex) is. If the other parent is that bad, why would you let your child be around them 50 percent of the time?
- How far apart do you and your ex live?
The closer, the better. It can be hard on children if a parent, for example, lives 30 miles away and has to fight traffic in order to get them to school more than once per week. However, if both parents live in the same school district, the transitions will probably be easier.
- What are the kids’ schedules?
The kids’ schedules are also a factor in whether 50/50 works. The more activities a child is involved in, the harder the 50/50 possession schedule becomes. When a child is involved in multiple activities, they need as much stability at home as possible.
- What kind of 50/50 possession schedule works best?
The most popular 50/50 possession schedules are week-on, week-off and 2-2-5. Week-on, week-off is exactly what it sounds like. The kids stay with one parent for a week and the other parent the next week. In a 2-2-5 schedule, one parent will have the children Monday and Tuesday nights while the other parent will have the children Wednesday and Thursday nights. The parents will then alternate weekends one parent five days one week and 2 the next.
When you ask yourself these questions, you will realize that the real question is whether a 50/50 schedule is right for the kids, not whether it is right for you. If it is right for the kids, then you should do it. However, I constantly tell clients not to get too caught up in the numbers. You certainly want to see your children as much as possible, but you want to make sure the schedule is best for them.