When it comes to issues related to their children, police officers almost always focus on these issues first and foremost. Whether they are going through a divorce or child custody case, any issues related to your children are going to be what you focus on the most. As someone who works for their community, it is only natural that you have concern over the welfare of your kids. While there are many areas of a family law case that you can’t control it is straightforward to want to do what is best for your children during a time of great uncertainty and instability.

Probably the most distinct thing about working as a police officer is that you do not work a traditional nine to five job. While there may be times when you have predictable and traditional hours there may be other times during the year where you take on an added workload and therefore cannot commit yourself to a standard amount of work hours like people in other professions may be able to. Your life may be spent with constantly fluctuating hours based on the needs of your community.

With this being said, a traditional custody and parenting plan arrangement would not suit you well. If you attempted to utilize this type of arrangement for your family you would likely find very quickly that the realities of your family would come crashing into these tough daily structures of a standard possession order. In terms of being rigid, a standard possession order does provide predictability for families who are going through a divorce. This can be good for many who otherwise have had an unpredictable amount of time each month with their children. 

On the other hand, if you work as a police officer then you know that you cannot always depend upon a certain schedule or shift. Your law enforcement body may move you around in terms of your daily schedule based on the time of year, needs of the community, and even your physical or mental needs at that period as a result, a rigid possession schedule and parenting plan as outlined in a standard possession order probably would not suit you well at all. It could be that a standard possession order is to the detriment of your relationship with your family.

For that reason, you need to be focused on what you can do during a family law case to protect your relationship with your children while providing them with some degree of consistency and stability as far as being able to know when they are going to be able to see both of their parents. In a post-divorce world that is incredibly important for you to be able to co-parent with your ex-spouse or partner. While your relationship or marriage may not have worked out for the long haul that does not mean that your time with that person has come to an end. Rather, the most important aspect of your relationship, you’re raising a child with that person, is just beginning. 

When you add on to the challenges and pressures of being a police officer then you have to consider all of the factors and different issues that will come to the forefront for your family. This is not to say that co-parenting while being a police officer is impossible. However, there are several challenges associated with co-parenting walls serving your community as a law enforcement officer. As a result, you need to give special consideration to several child custody issues that will likely be impacting your family both now and in the future. 

Fortunately for you, the attorneys were the Law Office of Bryan Fagan are here to serve the law enforcement officers in our community just like you. At the same time, we take a great deal of pride in serving the families and spouses of law enforcement officers. Whether you are a police officer, sheriff’s deputy, or other law enforcement, for the spouse of a law enforcement officer we are here for you and your family. If you have any questions about the material that you read in this blog post please feel free to reach out to us today. We are available six days a week and offer free of charge consultations with our licensed family law attorneys by phone, in person, and via video.

What are the types of custody that are relevant in your case?

Whether you plan on filing a child custody case or are currently going through a child custody case in Texas, there are a couple of different concepts about custody that I think you need to focus on. The first is legal custody. Legal custody refers to the idea that both you and your Co-parent are going to have legal responsibilities and rights regarding the possession of your children. Within your child custody order, you will have a designation as either the primary or possessory conservator of your children. This will go into detail regarding whether you have the right to determine the primary residence of your children or if you have visitation rights. 

These visitation rights will spell out a schedule for you to be able to physically possess your children. This is the second component of the custody issue. Namely, within a child custody case, you will focus on how often you will physically be able to have your children. This is the time that you will have the children with you in your home or your physical possession. Legal custody provides you with these rights on paper. However, having physical custody of your children is what most parents, especially law enforcement and first responders, care most about. I think the reason for this is that law enforcement and first responders understand that their time is precious and that they value every opportunity that they get with their children.

On top of the physical possession aspects of a child custody case, police officer parents also need to be aware of the decision-making authority that they and their co-parents will have about their children. For example, your child’s health, religious, educational, and safety decision-making capabilities will be placed in the hands of both you and your Co-parent. Depending upon what you negotiate through in your divorce or child custody case both you and your Co-parent will share these decision-making capabilities in some form or fashion. How you divide up these rights depends upon the needs of your children and both of your predispositions towards being able to make these tough choices. 

Many police officers would agree that their day job takes away from their ability to physically be present for their children during much of the year. So, if your child has medical or educational needs that oftentimes require decision making at the drop of a hat then you may concede that being a primary conservator is not what is best for you or your child. While pride may tell you to be as aggressive as you can be in negotiating for this designation the reality is that your child may be better off with your Co-parent having this right and this designation rather than you. This does not mean that you won’t be able to have any decision-making rights on behalf of your child but in terms of having day-to-day decision-making authority that may be better for your no parent to have.

No one understands issues of safety and welfare better than a law enforcement officer. For that reason, you may have specific ideas in place when it comes to being able to help your family manage the safety and welfare of your children. When it comes to raising your children in a certain religious heritage you should know that both you and your Co-parent have the right to direct your child’s religious upbringing while you have the child. This means that you could raise the child however you want and your religious heritage while the child is in your possession but your ex-spouse or Co-parent will be able to do the same.

Parenting schedules for police officers

Ultimately, however, your primary concern in your child custody case will likely be in making sure that you are going to have designated times where you will be able to have your children. This means that your ability to be flexible and creative in coming up with a schedule is of extreme importance. This doesn’t mean that you should try to push for court orders that are overly flexible and do not tie your family down to certain periods where you will be able to see your children but it does mean that having a traditional center possession order probably does not work for you or your children.

A parenting schedule is one that you will likely come to agree upon with your spouse or Co-parent in mediation. Mediation is the process whereby both you and your Co-parent would agree to meet with an experienced family law mediator to help you hammer out an agreement on all issues related to child custody aspects of your case. The mediator is someone who practices family law or may have even been a former judge. He or she would have experience and knowledge about what you would likely encounter from a judge based on the circumstances of your case. For that reason, the perspective of a mediator is important to take into consideration when you are negotiating through the terms of a child custody case.

In any typical parenting plan or custody arrangement, you and your Co-parent would trade-off weekends. As we already noted, a standard possession order in Texas has parents who do not have primary custody promising the children to those parents on the first, 3rd, and 5th weekends of each month. The weekend would begin at 6:00 PM on a Friday and would end at either 6:00 PM on Sunday or at the time school begins on Monday. As you are already saying to yourself, most likely, this type of set schedule does not work well for law enforcement or police officer.

Special considerations for you as a law enforcement officer within your family after a child custody case

It can be difficult for some law enforcement officers to be able to seamlessly switch off between being an authority figure at work and a patient and doting parent at home. I’m not saying that this can’t be done but from my experience, it can be a challenge for many parents to go through difficult circumstances involving a child custody case. For example, you may identify certain behaviors or character traits in your children that you want to eliminate and it may frustrate you that you only have temporary periods to do that with the period you need to decide to focus on what you think is most important with your children and that may mean putting your energy towards certain pursuits that are more essential to the well being of your child.

It is also important to be able to Co-parent effectively after a child custody case. Even though the last thing you may want to do is work directly with your co-parent immediately after a difficult family law case the reality of the circumstances is that this will be essential especially given your situation and having a work schedule that is sometimes unpredictable and subject to change at a moment’s notice. Building up a level of trust and communication with your Co-parent so that you can handle these challenges together is very important. You may find that the two of you are better able to sort out your problems after a family law case than you were before or during. Trust is the bottom line in this type of situation and a skill that the two of you need to develop with time together.

Another aspect of this subject that I think merits some discussion is that even if you are busy or undergoing a lot of stress due to your job the reality of the situation is that when you were at home you need to be a parent first and foremost. When it comes to this type of arrangement you can focus on your child as much as possible. This may mean turning your phone off and leaving the TV off when you are with your child to be free of distractions. It is normal for us to have our attention be diverted between different things during the day. However, when your child is with you he or she should be the primary place of your focus each day.

 Next, sharing information with your Co-parent as quickly as you can, especially regarding a schedule change can be important. Think about it if the shoe were on the other foot. Wouldn’t you want to know if your Co-parent was going to have a significant change in their work schedule as quickly as possible? This would lead to a series of things that can happen favorably for your family. For one, it builds trust between you and your Co-parent. The second thing is that it benefits the daily life of your child. at the end of the day, this should be your primary place of focus. Want to do what is best for your children while also showing respect to your Co-parent.

Another aspect of this discussion that I would consider is that you should watch out for your behavior regarding the safety of your children. Obviously, as a police officer, you have a great deal of experience in handling public safety matters for the community. However, you should be mindful of the fact that you can be overly protective insensitive regarding issues regarding the safety of your children. By no means am I saying that you should disregard or second guess your instincts regarding the safety of your children? However, you should also be mindful of the fact that you may tend to want to overprotect your children in situations that may not merit that. Understanding that your Co-parent may have a different view or perspective on health and safety issues can be a difficult lesson to learn but maybe necessary 4 building a strong foundation in terms of the life of your children.

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 do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. We’ve licensed family law attorneys to offer free of charge consultations 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 circumstances may be impacted by the filing of a divorce or child custody case. Thank you for your interest in our law office and we hope that you will join us tomorrow and in days to come as we continue to post relevant and interesting information about Texas family law subject matter.