You might know April 1 strictly as April Fools’ Day, a holiday dedicated to jokes, but it’s a significant annual milestone for divorced parents in Texas who are trying to make their summer plans. As we detailed in an earlier blog article, that’s the day that the Texas Family Code says the parenting time schedule must be submitted to the custodial parent by the non-custodial parent.
Though there’s a little more nuance to how the Texas Family Code works, it’s designed to give the non-custodial parent 30 days plus the first, third, and fifth weekends that parent has during the school year, in order to balance out the parenting time that each parent has during the school year. The parameters, which find their way into the decrees of many divorced parents throughout Texas, are there to provide a backstop for parents who can’t otherwise agree on how to split up summer time, and are set up with plenty of time for parents to make travel plans if that’s part of the summer vacation agenda.
As with other aspects of the Texas Family Code, it’s designed to be fair to the parents and to take their children’s needs into account. And, if you’re litigating your divorce, it’s likely that the Texas Family Code plan laid out in Section 153 will end up in your decree. However, every family is different, and it’s quite possible that the summer plan in the decree doesn’t work best for you — so if you have different ideas about how to arrive at summer parenting time, it’s best to negotiate that at the outset.
And, as we like to emphasize, what’s in the decree is a backstop if the parents can’t agree on a plan that’s mutually acceptable. If parents can agree on a plan this summer that works better for their children than what’s in the decree, that’s fantastic! We advise, of course, that any verbal negotiation is followed up by an email exchange that commits the agreement to writing, so there’s no ambiguity or misunderstanding down the road.
For example, one of our associates is a divorced dad with a teenager who’s a high school debater. He’s going to two different debate camps this summer that will have him away from both parents for 31 days in total. Rather than try to wedge the default Texas Family Code plan into their divvying up of time, the parents simply agreed to go halfsies on his remaining summer days, built around what made the most sense for him.
The other thing to keep in mind with parenting time in general, as we like to point out, is that your needs might change as your children change. A divorce decree created while your children were in elementary school might not account for all the activities they’ve taken on as middle schoolers or high schoolers.
Modifying your decree isn’t the easiest thing in the world to do – especially if you don’t see eye-to-eye with your ex over the current arrangement you have. But at the Law Office of Lisa A. Vance, we can talk to you about what’s in your decree now and what you’d like to have in your decree going forward. An initial consultation can give you a sense of what might be possible to get the parenting time schedule you want.