When parents have a possession schedule in place (more commonly known as a visitation schedule), often questions arise related to how strictly the schedule should be followed. For example, parents might ask some of the following questions:
- “My child’s father has asked to trade weekends with me, but that is not in the schedule. Do I have to allow it?”
- “My child’s mother has asked to take our child on Wednesday evening instead of Thursday evening this week. Do I have to allow it?”
- “My child’s father was late picking up our child on three different occasions last month. What should I do about it?”
Most court orders containing possession schedules have a statement that says, “In the absence of a mutual agreement by the parties, possession of the child will take place as follows…” That statement simply means that the parents can agree to whatever schedule they want for their children, but in the event the parties cannot agree on a schedule, then the court has outlined one for the parents to follow. In our cases, it is our hope that, at the end, the parents will be able to file their court order in a safe place at home with other important papers and never look at their visitation schedule again.
The courts want families to be flexible with one another. It would be almost impossible for a family to adhere so strictly to a possession schedule where neither parent, at some point, might need some flexibility. Our lives as parents can be unpredictable – we get sick, we get caught in traffic, we get into car accidents, our jobs might require attendance at a conference out of town, etc. Life’s obligations, trials and tribulations will occur regardless of our possession schedules.
The question: “Do I have to allow it?”
The answer: No.
However, when the request is reasonable, such as switching a weekend or an evening, then try this exercise:
- Consider what detriment would occur if the request was granted.
- If there’s no real detriment, then be flexible.
Again, we are unable to predict when life throws a curve ball and we might need some flexibility and help from the other parent.
Additionally, and more importantly, the children have an opportunity to observe their parents working together and being flexible with one another. In sum, if the request is reasonable and if no harm is likely to occur, then give genuine consideration to the other parent’s request because it is almost certain that you will need help or a favor one day as well.
Questions? Schedule a consultation with one of our knowledgeable Austin child custody attorneys at The Law Office of Janet McCullar, P.C.