If you have been reading my blog you will know I am in favor of do-it-yourself when it is appropriate. Lately I have had some consultations because do-it-yourself should never have happened. This often comes when people go to the Texas Attorney General for child support. In many cases this is a great option for parents who need to save money but need visitation established and child support put in place. The problem comes when the visitation is not standard visitation. This is not necessarily because the Attorney General does not want to help you create a schedule that will work for you, but rather because what they do primarily is child support. They do not typically deal with creating complex visitation schedules. Here are some examples below:
- Party X works 28 days in another city and has 14 days off. During the 14 days Party X wants to see child. The Order says that Party X can see child during hours of 9:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. five times during those 14 days. Sounds good to many people, however, it is not enforceable by contempt because it is not specific enough. What the Order should state is that Party X shall have possession of the child the first Saturday, Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday following the beginning of his 14 days off from work between the hours of 9:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. each of those dates. By having the latter language it gives specific days and times. There’s a bit more wording that could be put in place for future possessions in future years that I would also likely add.
- The parties shall have possession of the child on alternating weeks. This issue here is who starts possession and when. Some Orders give a specific starting date for the alternating possession, assign that week to one parent, and then go from there. The issue there is that in the future if you have to enforce the possession schedule you have to go all the way back to that first date when possession starts and figure out who had which week and when. That could be years worth of calendars to go through. The better practice is to assign even and odd weeks throughout the year.
- Summer Possession: The parties shall alternate possession of the children for 14 days beginning the Sunday after school ends at 6:00 p.m. and ending 7 days prior to school resuming. The issue with this possession is that one parent will have more two week periods of possession than the other. Sometimes we alternate who gets the first two week period of possession so that every other year the other parent is getting the longer possession. Sometimes we limit it to the first 8 weeks of summer so that it is an even number of possessions.
So while do-it-yourself can save you money now, if it is not done right it could cost you a lot more later when you try to enforce the Order. You may find out that you cannot enforce it and instead get clarification on the Order going forward.