If you are a parent who has been through a child custody or divorce case in Texas then you are familiar with the result of your case being a final order. The final order in a divorce case is called a final decree of divorce. The final order in a child custody case is a suit affecting the parent-child relationship. These are the orders that encapsulate either the settlements agreed upon in mediation or the orders of a judge from a trial period, either way, they have the same effect and will require you to be able to follow through with those orders in your post family case life.
One of the important things that I recommend to people as they take on the challenges of a post-divorce or post child custody life is to understand the terms of their orders. This is important for several reasons. First of all, simply on a day-to-day basis, it is important to know what your responsibilities are when it comes to the issues contained in your orders. Child support, child custody, and Visitation issues are all included in these orders. Understanding them and knowing what your responsibilities are is a key to being able to manage life with your Co-parent. Ultimately, it is your child who suffers if you do not understand the nature of your court orders.
That process begins at the end of your divorce or child custody case. You need to make sure that you read through every draft of your final orders and not just have your attorney summarize them for you. The best time to make corrections to a mistake contained in a court order is before those orders become final. Otherwise, you are looking at a situation where your court orders may not reflect what was agreed upon in mediation or what was decided by a judge and trial period at that point, the orders you have may not be worth the paper that they’re printed on.
Nobody expects you to be a legal scholar just because you went through it of course or a child custody case. As a result, when you’re reading through any draft of your orders it is wise to ask questions of your attorney. Work with your attorney to have him or her explaining the issues that you see with the order so you have no doubt what your responsibilities are after the case comes to an end. The Lord is not providing you with someone to guide you in your post-divorce life. At that point, you and your Co-parent are largely on your own to manage the order and to parent your children successfully. If you want to be able to understand how old is people can make mistakes when it comes to a court order I think the beginning of that understanding comes with a lack of knowledge or lack of preparation.
Even in the best of circumstances, however, you and your Co-parent may find yourselves in a situation where your Visitation or possession orders do not work well for you in a certain period after your case is over. That does not mean anyone has done something wrong necessarily but what it does mean is that you and your co-parent need to be able to work together to come up with solutions to these sorts of problems. What can you all do, short of jumping in a time machine and having your court orders changed, 2 improve the quality of your child’s life when circumstances develop to change the course of your life?
In today’s blog post from the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, I would like to share with you some thoughts about your ability to temporarily and informally alter your court orders to suit the needs of your family at any given moment. Typically, this is done with negotiation and communication between you and your Co-parent. To close out the blog, I would like to talk more about the formal process of modifying a court order as it pertains to child custody issues like possession and Visitation. While informal agreements tend to work in short-term scenarios oftentimes you will need something more than just a band-aid to suit your family over the long term.
What to do if a temporary change in your custody situation is needed?
As I mentioned a moment ago, there is little doubt that the circumstances of your family will change over time. Even if you endure Co-parent were diligent throughout your child custody or divorce case to anticipate changes in making decisions based on those changes maybe all of this space uncertainty in life. Those uncertainties can be difficult to manage if you are living under a child custody or divorce order. As I like to tell clients: the only certainty in life is change. While we can anticipate some of those changes ahead of time many changes we face R things that come at us from out of the blue.
Once you begin to understand that your circumstances are changing, if only temporarily, what I would recommend is to address this issue with your Co-parent immediately. Many times I find that by addressing an issue directly with someone as soon as you understand it’s going to be a problem then that leaves you all plenty of time to figure out problems and survey your options. When you leave something to the last minute it tends to make you desperate. Desperate people do not make good decisions typically and as a result, you and your Co-parent may face challenges that were unnecessary in the 1st place.
Let’s take a hypothetical situation that you may face with your Co-parent after a divorce. Suppose that in your job, you tend to work irregular hours that can change over time. Since you could not tell ahead of time when your schedule would change or what those different hours would be you did not make an allowance for them in your court orders. As a result, you have atypical standard possession order where you have Visitation with your children on the 1st 3rd, and 5th weekends of each month along with alternating Holidays throughout the year. This city junior family well for the first year after your divorce.
However, now your first change in your work schedule has taken place after your divorce. That change sees you working weekends on the 1st and 3rd weekends of each month. This cuts into a majority of your Visitation time with your kids during the school year. Even though you tried to talk to your manager about the changes there was no way of getting around that these changes were going to impact you and your family. Most specifically, they were going to impact the court orders that you all have been trying to live under as best you can for the past year.
What kind of options do you have to consider now? Short of leaving your job and finding another place to work, which may not be the worst option in reality, what can you do during this period to make sure that you can see your children? Will you have to give up and just allow your Co-parent to have those extra weekends with the kids while you get nothing? While that is certainly an option that many people default into I would recommend taking a different route involving communication. Here is how I think a best-case scenario may work out for you and your family in the short term.
Communicating through issues with your Co-parent
Ideally, you will already have a solid working relationship with your Co-parent. That does not mean that you all have to be best friends or even that you have to be friendly with each other. At its core, the co-parenting relationship is 1 where if you all can put aside their differences and take a businesslike approach to the issues then you will be best served. Remember that you all are going through changes just like your children are. The main difference is that your children are not able to process and adjust to those changes as easily as you are as an adult. With that said, simply being professional and businesslike with your spouse after divorce can improve the quality of your life with your children.
With that said, if you face circumstances like I just finished describing in the prior section of today’s blog post then you should immediately contact your Co-parent. Many Co-parents find that by agreeing to certain methods of communication they are better able to get information to the other person as soon as possible. Once you find out that there are issues regarding your Visitation time and work schedule you should contact your Co-parent. This should preferably be done or each of you has an opportunity to be away from the children and can devote time and attention to this matter. When it comes to subject matter like this it is probably best to not deal with text messages.
When you have worked at a time to discuss this matter with your Co-parent you should do so honestly. Make sure he or she understands the ramifications of this schedule change and what it will mean to your family. You could approach the topic with some humility and choose two be open to consideration of different issues that are impacting everyone. Do not assume that your Co-parent will immediately take two every idea you have for adjusting your Visitation schedule. Rather, I would take the time to talk with your Co-parent about what their thoughts are and what their concerns may be.
Doing this will allow you to understand the situation from the perspective of your Co-parent and it may also allow you and your Co-parent to better work through different scenarios and problem-solve together. I find that when you understand another person’s perspective that you probably won’t agree with it immediately but you can at least understand that the person is not coming to you from a perspective of malice or ignorance. This will help to keep you centered on what is most important. Namely, the ability for both you and your Co-parent to have a relationship with your children.
What you all can establish a level of trust together then you can begin to negotiate your way through potential solutions to this problem. The problem is not a difficult one when taking on a granule or basic level. Your parenting plan and schedule are not going to work for some time and a change needs to be made somewhere to make an accommodation for this. The devil, as an off it is, is in the details. You need to be able to figure out how to make a change that allows you to maintain consistent time with your children.
A temporary change to the parenting schedule where you all flip-flop weekends makes sense. Your Co-parent could take possession of the children on the 1st and 3rd weekends of each month while you have possession of the kids on their second and 4th weekends. Since the fifth weekend of the month is unaffected by the change in your work schedule that is one aspect of the parenting plan that you could maintain. Now that you all have an oral agreement in place I would still put something in writing.
While your temporary agreement that is put in writing is not something that can be enforced by a court it can at least allow all of you to see the agreement in front of you. There is something about seeing an agreement like this and understanding what importance it has for your family that can make a huge difference on an emotional and psychological level. Seeing it spelled out to you plainly will allow you to make sure that you are emotionally OK with making this change and can have something spelled out in the future if there are any discrepancies or problems that you will encounter.
However, it is not advisable to always operate in this fashion if you anticipate longstanding changes being necessary. Well, I always recommend to people that they attempt to work problems out with their spouse through negotiation before going to court there are some circumstances where makeshift or Band-Aid orders are not the best way to proceed. As such, I wanted to close out today’s blog post by discussing with you how to go about modifying hey court order in family court.
Going to court to modify the court order
What if the change to your work schedule was not going to be temporary? What if you had a court order that needed to be changed permanently due to a permanent shift in your work schedule? In that case, I would not recommend you going the route that I described with your Co-parent. If a permanent change to your work schedule a curd then you should consider filing a modification in the same court you got your divorce from. This process is important to learn.
A material and substantial change in your circumstances, those of your Co-parent, or those of your children need to be in place to justify a modification being granted by a judge. He or she will look at your circumstances and decide on what is in the best interests of you are children. In the situation, we have been describing for today’s blog posts, your material, and substantial change would be a work schedule that has shifted since the time of your divorce and now would not allow you to see your children during the school year.
A petition to modify would be filed in the same court where you got your divorce initially. You would attach to your petition a sworn statement under oath telling the court what you believe your substantial change to be. Assuming that the judge grants you a hearing you would have an opportunity to present your evidence in court to show why a modification is justified. However, you will still have an opportunity to work with your Co-parent before going to court.
Mediation would likely be scheduled for you and your Co-parent once you’re moving to modify is filed. This mediation session would allow you and your Co-parent to continue to work on any solutions that you all can reach outside of court. It may be that you and your Co-parent have already spoken about potential solutions to this problem and just need a mediator to put something into formal language. Whatever your circumstances maybe it is best to pursue options directly with your Co-parent even if a lawsuit needs to be filed in the 1st place.
Questions about the material contained in today’s blog post? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan
If you have any questions about the material contained in today’s blog post please don’t hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. Our licensed family law attorneys offer free of charge consultation six days a week in person, over the phone, and via video. These consultations are a great way for you to learn more about the world of Texas family law as well as about how your family’s circumstances may be impacted by the filing of a divorce or child custody case.