Many of our new divorce clients ask about fifty-fifty possession schedules. We find that dads seem to be especially interested in an even split type of schedule with the kids. What does fifty-fifty mean for the kids and parents? How do these plans affect child support? Do parents really want this kind of schedule? Let’s look at what a fifty-fifty means in real life.
The “Standard Possession Order”
The Texas Family Code clearly forbids giving preference to either parent based on sex. Likewise, the code presumes both parents possess equal rights and duties to the children. However, the code does not presume that a fifty-fifty possession schedule is normal. Interestingly, the code presumes the old familiar “first, third, and fifth weekend” plan works best. The code calls this plan the “standard possession order.” Sadly, many parents see the code’s standard plan as a win/lose deal—and in some ways it is. One parent becomes the custodial parent, while the other gets weekend visits.
Enter Fifty-Fifty Schedules
Many new clients inquire about a fifty-fifty possession schedule for their cases. We do our best for our clients, and we are always happy to land a fifty-fifty plan for them. However, convincing the court to order a fifty-fifty plan is far from easy. The family code fails to even mention a fifty-fifty plan. Consequently, many judges refuse to order any plan that isn’t addressed in the code. Still, a fifty-fifty plan seems fair to many parents.
Achieving a Fifty-Fifty Schedule
The easiest way to land a fifty-fifty possession schedule is by agreement with the other parent. Either through a formal mediation, or through informal negotiations, agreement is the easiest way to secure a fifty-fifty plan. Most courts will enter an agreed order that provides for a fifty-fifty schedule even though the court would likely not order such a plan at a contested hearing.
Fifty-Fifty Schedules and Child Support
Many people incorrectly believe a fifty-fifty plan means neither parent should pay child support to the other. When the court do order a fifty-fifty schedule, child support is often offset between the parents. The parent who earns a higher income generally pays the lower earning parent some child support. The child support ordered is generally less than the family code guidelines suggest.
What we have seen many times is a parent who seeks to avoid a child support obligation by taking the children half the time. Many of these parents ultimately choose not to take a fifty-fifty plan when they learn they will still likely pay child support. We also see parents who truly want as much time with the kids as possible, but their work schedules make a fifty-fifty plan unworkable. Certainly, it’s hard for many high-earning parents to get the kids back and forth to school and to help with homework for week-long stretches. So, while many parents wish they could do fifty-fifty with the kids, they can’t actually work that schedule because of their jobs.
Youngblood Law, PLLC is a Fort Worth, Texas family law firm focusing on helping people define their new normal through their divorce and beyond. This essay is intended for educational use only, and is not a replacement for competent legal counsel. If you are facing a family law matter, we recommend obtaining competent legal counsel like Youngblood Law, PLLC. For more information contact us at (817) 601-5345, find us on the web at youngblood-law.com,. Find us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/youngbloodlawPLLC/