This article provides a detailed discussion of some of the 50/50 alternative possession schedules available instead of the Standard Possession Order in a Texas divorce. The article also addresses when alternative schedules are available.
You can read more about the Standard Possession Order here.
You can also learn more about how child custody decisions are made here.
When Are Alternative Possession Schedules Appropriate?
The alternative possession schedules discussed below are most common when both parents have been actively involved in their child’s life. We often see the schedules when the parents are successful at co-parenting their children and able to reach an agreement on child custody through informal settlement talks or mediation.
While a judge can order an alternative possession schedule, a judge will only do so if he or she finds that the alternative possession schedule is in the best interests of the child. Every decision a judge makes that affects a child in a divorce case is governed by the best interests of the child standard.
The means that a parent seeking an alternative possession schedule at trial (and not in agreement with the opposing parent) must demonstrate to the court that the alternative schedule will have a positive impact on the child and not just be a benefit to the parent requesting the alternative schedule.
This usually requires demonstrating 3 key points. First, that both parents were very involved in their child’s life before the divorce. Second, that the child could suffer some feeling of detachment or emotional harm if one parent is suddenly withdrawn from frequent involvement in their life. And third, that the possession schedule you propose will not have an adverse impact on the child’s life.
How a judge decides whether an alternative schedule is in a child’s best interest based on the specific facts of your case will vary based on the judge’s personal experience and beliefs.
What Are 50/50 Alternative Possession Schedules?
There is a presumption under Texas law that the parent who does not have primary custody, meaning the right to designate the child’s primary residence, should have a minimum amount of possession and access to the child. This minimum amount is set out in the Standard Possession Order.
The key to remember is that this is the minimum amount of possession that a non-primary parent should have. Anything more than the Standard Possession Order is considered an alternative possession schedule. For purposes of this discussion I am going to focus on alternative possession schedules that approximate 50/50 periods of possession.
Over time, Texas lawyers developed several common alternative possession schedules to arrive at a 50/50 possession schedule.
These options include:
- 2-2-3 Alternating Schedule
- 5-2 Wrap Schedule
- Alternating Weeks
- Alternating Weeks With A Weeknight
I will review each of these schedules in more detail below.
2-2-3 Alternative Possession Schedule
The 2-2-3 alternating possession schedule is unique in that it allows a parent to never go more than 3 days without seeing their child. There are of course exceptions for extended holiday periods of possession.
Here is how it works. The first week, Mother has possession on Monday and Tuesday as well as Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Father has possession on Wednesday and Thursday.
The second week, all of those days are switched. This means that the Father has possession on Monday and Tuesday as well as Friday, Saturday and Sunday during the second week. Mother has possession on Wednesday and Thursday the second week.
When a holiday period of possession interrupts this schedule, which ever parent did not have possession during the holiday period gets possession the following weekend. This restarts the alternating schedule.
5-2 Wrap Alternative Possession Schedule
The 5-2 wrap is another alternative schedule short of a full week on/week off schedule. In this schedule, Mother will always have possession on Monday and Tuesday of each week. Father will always have possession on Wednesday and Thursday of each week. These are each parent’s 2 day periods.
The parents then alternate each weekend. This has the effect of extending each parent’s 2 day period into a 5 day period every other week. When Mother has a weekend period of possession, it extends from that Friday to the following Tuesday. When father has a weekend period of possession it starts on the prior Wednesday and goes through Sunday.
Again, when a holiday period of possession interrupts this schedule, the parties pick up with the other parent having the first weekend of possession after the holiday period.
This alternative possession schedule is as simple as it gets. Mother has possession for one week. Then Father has possession the next week.
We usually set the exchange of possession on a Sunday evening, but it can be any day of the week or weekend.
When a holiday period of possession interrupts this schedule, the parties simply pick up with the other parent beginning their week of possession after the holiday period ends.
Alternating Weeks With A Weeknight
This alternative possession schedule is similar to the alternating week schedule above with one key difference. The parent who does not have possession for the week gets one weeknight, usually a Wednesday or Thursday, to have possession of the child.
This avoids a parent going a full week without seeing their child.
Again, when a holiday period of possession interrupts this schedule, the parties simply pick up with the other parent beginning their week of possession after the holiday period ends.