By: Abigail Grieve
When considering a 50/50 possession schedule for your family, if you hopped onto the internet searching for a lawyer, judge, or other parent’s thoughts on how the schedule works for them, it is likely you found people with very strong opinions one way or the other. But every family dynamic is different: what works great for one family might not work for yours, and what might be terrible for one family could be perfect for yours. As such, when deciding if you should pursue a 50/50 schedule versus Texas’s Standard Possession Order (SPO) or Expanded Standard Possession Order (ESPO), it is important to see both sides of the 50/50 possession debate and consider what might work best for your family.
“It doesn’t work because you need very cooperative parents, and when you’re getting divorced it probably means that cooperation will be hard.”
While this may be true, also consider that you will have to communicate with the other parent with any shared custody arrangement, especially for young children. When your child splits their time between the parent’s two homes, the parents will always need to coordinate the pick-up/drop-off logistics, the child’s schoolwork due dates and making sure the correct assignments and supplies go back and forth between the homes, whether there are any extracurriculars or appointments that the child needs to attend, etc. While a 50/50 schedule will require more of this, it is important to recognize that you will need to communicate with the other parent, no matter the possession arrangement, in order to effectively co-parent.
“It’s a burden on the children to go back and forth that often.”
Again, this may be very true, but recognize that your child is going back and forth between households no matter what. Consider your child’s age and what is important to them when making this decision, not just your own wants regarding your child. For example, maybe your child really wants their mom to pick them up and be able to go to afterschool baseball practice with them on Thursday every week; instead of a week on/week off arrangement, you might consider a 2/2/5/5, so that they can be with mom every Wednesday and Thursday and be happy doing that activity together. Alternatively, if you know your child likes doing schoolwork with dad, consider the ESPO because it would allow your child to spend most schooldays with dad.
“The Standard Possession Order and the Expanded Standard Possession Order are almost 50/50 anyway.”
While this is true when you total the hours that you are actually with your child (subtract time sleeping and while at school), the type of time spent with the child is different: with the SPO or ESPO, one child will be with one parent for most schooldays and with the other parent predominantly on weekends. As such, consider that the time spent with your child and the activities done will be different for each parent. Again, think about what will be best for your child and for you and the other parent’s work schedules.
“A 50/50 Possession Schedule puts the wants of the parents over the best interest of the child.”
Depending on your child and your family’s situation, this critique may be true: if you and the other parent know that your child is struggling with going back and forth between homes as often as your 50/50 requires, continuing to demand that you receive your exact 50% is putting your desires as a parent over the well-being of your child. Instead consider another schedule that will still allow you to spend quality time with your kids but will not result in the anxiety that the back and forth may cause some children. Alternatively, if your child does well with their 50/50 arrangement, then the 50/50 is probably the best balance of the best interests of the child and your rights as a parent. Further, it eliminates the win/lose dichotomy that is often present in divorces, will encourage you to get along for the sake of the child instead of fighting over who will have more time, and will alleviate the anxiety that the pressure to “pick a parent” puts on your child.
Ultimately, when you and the other parent are discussing what schedule may work best for your children when you and the other parent are separating, try your best to think objectively about your work schedule, your child’s school schedule, extracurriculars, who will be available to do school drop-off and pick-up, etc. The goal should always be to strike the best balance between what works best and what is best for your child, while also spending the most time with them you can. For some families this may be a 50/50 and for others this may be the Standard Possession Order or Expanded Standard Possession Order, or some other arrangement that you have out together