One of the thorniest
issues that a divorcing couple has to deal with is what's going to
happen to the kids. Basically, that boils down to, "who's going
to get custody and who's going to have visitation rights?"
This is one of those issues that many men find truly
infuriating because the woman nearly always gets custody of the kids.
There are many men out there who have been good husbands and good
fathers and suddenly find their access to their children severely
restricted when the wife files for divorce. "Why," they ask, "am
I being punished when I haven't done anything wrong?" And it's a
In order to answer it, you have to look at the
nature of two people separating. You ARE going to be living in
two separate residences. You ARE going to be living two separate
lives. Now, at the beginning of the 20th century - when there was
very little divorce occuring anyway - most people in this country were
born in small, rural towns, married someone from the same town, and
raised their kids in the same town. If they separated the odds
were that they'd only be living a few miles from each other after the
separation. In that situation there would be no problem with true
joint custody. The kids could spend one night with Mom and the
next night with Dad with no real disruption to their lives.
Unfortunately, when you try to transfer that
scenario to modern life it frequently becomes a nightmare. One
parent or another may have to relocate hundreds or even thousands of
miles away for employment purposes. If the father is only fifty
miles away it can turn into a situation where most of his visitation
takes place in a car hauling the kids from one residence to the other
and then back again.
The solution that the court system came up with is
the so-called, "standard visitation schedule." One parent or
another is designated as the, "managing conservator," meaning that they
have full custody of the kids and manage their day to day lives.
The other parent is designated the, "possessory conservator,"
meaning that they possess the children during periods of visitation.
The divorce decree will stipulate exactly when the possessory
conservator can have possession of the children and it usually looks
something like this:
every other week end
every other major holiday
60 days in the summer
at all other times to which the parties may agree.
That's not written in
stone, of course, and you may want to tweak it to maximize the time
with your kids. For instance, if you were in the military and you
KNEW you weren't going to be in the same town with your ex-wife you
might want to give up the weekend visitation and ask for 90 days in the
summer rather than sixty. If you defintely knew that you WERE
going to be in the same town, you might also want to include Wednesday
nights so that you could have a mid-week check in with your kids.
It should also be noted that many divorce decrees
contain TWO visitation schedules, one dealing with visitation with the
child up to the age of three and then another dealing with visitation
after the child is three. The early age schedule may severely
limit the man's visitation with the child. This is based on the
somewhat female chauvinist notion that men are blithering,
beer-swilling idiots who can't possibly care for an infant.
There is also an exciting new idea that state law
makers recently incorporated into the Texas Family Code. It's
called , "virtual visitation," and is based on the fact that most
households now have computers. It allows the judge to order that
a certain number of hours can be set aside each week for you to visit
with your children on the computer. Basically all that you need
is a couple of webcams and skype.
I've actually had conferences where both the husband
and wife came in to file for an agreed divorce and both of them
objected strongly to a visitation schedule. "We still get along
great. Why should we have to follow a schedule?" The answer
is that you don't, as long as you continue to have a friendly
relationship. The schedule is there, though, IN CASE you don't
get along in the future. Sometimes people change. Sometimes
they remarry and the new wife or husband can't stand the ex-spouse.
If your relationship degenerates, you still have a written court
order for access to your children.