By Carie Silvestri

One of the advantages of both mediation and the collaborative divorce process is that parents have the flexibility to create a custody schedule that works best for their children, their family, and their unique circumstances.  While parents can come up with any schedule that they both agree on, there are three basic types of possession schedules.

Standard Possession

This is the most common custody schedule, and the one families will end up with if they go to court.  In Texas, standard possession grants the non-custodial parent visitation on the first, third, and fifth weekends of every month, a couple of hours every Thursday night, on alternating holidays, and at least one month in the summer.

Flexible Standard Possession

Many divorcing couples will use the standard possession order as a starting point, and tweak it to fit their needs. For example, they may follow the standard schedule during the school year, but alternate weeks during the summer.

Fifty-Fifty Custody

When parents share custody of the children equally, there are several options, which vary and are typically dictated by the ages of the children.  Parents should choose the right one for their children based upon the age appropriateness of the schedule and the individual circumstances of each person involved.  Be realistic about the demands of jobs and the kids’ activities, as well as the needs of the children.  For example, small children need more frequent contact with each parent than older children. And in order for any of these to work, the parents have to live relatively close to each other for practicality.

Just because parents share fifty-fifty custody does not necessarily mean one parent doesn’t pay child support.  If both parents’ income is similar, it’s a wash—both are equally contributing to the needs of the children.  However, if there is a significant difference in the parents’ incomes, the court will look at the offset—the difference between what mom and dad would each pay based on a formula—and the parent with the higher income would pay this offset to the other parent for child support.  This is to ensure the quality of life is somewhat the same for the children, regardless of whether they’re with mom or dad.

Week On/Week Off:  With this schedule, kids spend alternating weeks with each parent—one week with mom and then one week with dad.  Some families make the transition on Friday, so the kids start off the new week with the weekend, while others start on Monday and end the visitation period with the weekend.  Every other week is typically too long for small children, but works well for older kids and teenagers who don’t want to go back and forth.

2/2/3:  The kids spend two weekdays with parent one (say Monday and Tuesday), two weekdays with parent two (say Wednesday and Thursday), and then the weekend back with parent one.  The next week, it will flip-flop, and they spend Monday and Tuesday with parent two, Wednesday and Thursday with parent one, and the weekend with parent two.  This option is great for the kids—who see both parents frequently, including alternating weekends—but difficult on parents.

2/2/5/5: One parent has the kids every Monday and Tuesday, the other parent has the kids every Wednesday and Thursday, and they alternate weekends.  It’s good for the children, who don’t go more than five days without seeing the other parent, and it can helpful for parents who travel for work or want to be able to take the kids to a specific sports practice or simply like the continuity for scheduling.

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