I find it fascinating that we lawyers can tell divorcing couples exactly what they need to do with their children unless they (the children, that is) are under 3.
Is/are? Note to self: work on grammar skills!
The truth is/are that we probably know less (just as little?) about teenagers than infants and toddlers, but we keep that more on the down-low.
When children of divorcing couples are under three, however, we openly acknowledge that we have no template.
For children over three, we have the “Standard Possession Order”, which is supposed to be a “presumptive minimum” for a non-custodial parent.
The SPO is based upon the fundamental premise that a kid needs a “home base”, that one parent is “primary”; that the”primary parent” is the one who has the right to designate the child’s residence, whatever the heck that means; and that the non-custodial parent gets liberal “periods of possession”, which, as last I recall, adds up to about 42% of the year.
So, with a small round down, divorces are usually 60/40 arrangements when it comes to the kids.
Dad gets a long weekend on 1st, 3rd, and 5th weekends; Thursday nights in between; a good portion of the summer; and split-holidays.
But, for some reason, someone said, “Hey! You can’t do that with kids under three!” How did they decide where to draw the line? Is there some sort of stage of child development at three?
Regardless, three it is, and three it’s been. For as long as I have been practicing law, lawyers (that includes judges) have scratched their heads over how to allocate parent time for these little future makers of dysfunctional families of their own.
But, since we do have to solve these problems from time to time, some have offered solutions, and solutions become patterns.
One school of thought is that if a father is just as involved with an infant as the mother, he should have 50% of the time.
Then, there are those cases where the typical young father works all day while the typical young mother stays home with her typical baby until the typical stressors attack the young marrieds and they wind up in the offices of a couple of typical divorce lawyers. Let’s call that “the Typical Case”.
In the Typical Case, the conventional wisdom is that Mom is named as “primary”, and Dad gets “frequent periods of possession of short duration”. That usually translates into a couple of hours on Tuesday, a couple on Thursday, and a short weekend.
Here’s the problem: as a child under age 3 gets older, what happens? The parties start expanding it so that Dad gets more time.
Instead of evolving into the SPO, it evolves into a Tuesday overnight, a Thursday overnight, and long weekends.
Now, the typical child in the middle of this mess is at Mom’s on Monday, Dad’s on Tuesday, Mom’s on Wednesday, Dad’s on Thursday, and flip-flopping weekends.
For real. The Texas Legislature has now given us guidelines for possession schedules for children under three. Will they help?
Paint me the color of skepticism.