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Texas Custody Schedule Changed Due to School Absences

Originally published by Robert Epstein.

iStock-1252096710A parent’s behavior may affect their rights to access and possession of their child in a Texas custody case.  In a recent case, the trial court’s order provided that the schedule would change if the child had a certain number of unexcused absences or instances of tardiness while in the mother’s care.

According to the appeals court’s opinion, the trial court entered a custom possession order (CPO) as part of a modification order at the end of January 2020.  Pursuant to the CPO, the father had the right to possession of the child from Wednesday morning to Friday morning each week and from Friday morning to Monday morning every other weekend, and the parents alternated holidays and school breaks.  The CPO also provided that the mother’s possession schedule would change to the Standard Possession Schedule if the child had a total of any combination of five unexcused absences and “tardies” from school, as determined by the school, while in the mother’s possession.

Father Moves to Impose Standard Possession Order

The father moved to confirm and clarify the order and requested an injunction in April 2020.  He alleged the child had been tardy five days and absent two days during the fall semester of 2019.  He asked the court to confirm and clarify that the standard possession schedule was in effect and to grant an injunction.

 

He testified the child’s official school record showed the five tardy days and two unexcused absences and that the mother was responsible for getting the child to school on those days.  He presented a business records affidavit of the school’s records custodian dated January 30 and the child’s attendance records.  The records showed the child had four unexcused absences and five tardy days, including the specific days identified by the father.  He also testified that his attorney had attempted to resolve the issue without going to court.

The mother presented a business records affidavit dated June 16.  The attached records did not show the child was tardy on three of the dates on which he was shown tardy in the records introduced by the father.

The child’s kindergarten teacher testified she would rely on the records dated June 16.  She testified children are sometimes sent to the office when they arrive late, and that she and the office personnel can both input tardies.  She also testified that the system she uses and the system used by the office are different and that the two sets of records were from two different systems.

The mother testified she did not know if she was responsible for getting the child to school on three of the dates, which were on the days the parents alternated possession.

The trial court ordered the parties to use the standard possession and access schedule and awarded the father attorney fees.

Mother Appeals Trial Court’s Confirmation of Standard Possession Order

The mother appealed, arguing the trial court abused its discretion because it did not have sufficient evidence to support the order.  She argued the kindergarten teacher was an expert, and the trial court should have relied on the June records because the teacher testified she would rely on them and because they were more recent.

The appeals court noted the trial court had recognized the teacher as an expert in teaching, but not in education administration.  She had testified she was unfamiliar with generation and interpretation of school attendance records.  Although she acknowledged the discrepancy in the records, she could not explain it.  The appeals court further noted the trial court could have found she would rely on the June records because she was familiar with that report and not the one the father submitted.  The trial court had the discretion to discount her testimony.

Appellate Court Finds that Trial Court Properly Considered Conflicting Evidence

The appeals court noted that the trial court could also have found the January attendance records were more reliable than the June attendance records.  The June records contained a summary of absences and tardiness on a single page, which the appeals court noted was blurry and hard to read.  The January records included a “detailed accounting of the daily reports of attendance, absences, and tardies. . .”

Additionally, the court could have believed the father’s testimony that the mother was responsible for getting the child to school on the identified tardy and absent days.  The mother had admitted she was responsible on some of the days and did not remember who was responsible on the other days.

The appeals court found the trial court did not abuse its discretion in deciding to apply the standard schedule because there was substantial and probative evidence supporting it.

The appeals court found there was insufficient evidence supporting the award of attorney fees and remanded the case to the trial court on that issue, but otherwise affirmed the trial court’s order.

Walk into Court Prepared: Call McClure Law Group Today

A significant issue in this case is the conflicting evidence presented by the parties. Although the mother presented a witness to testify about the records, that witness was unable to explain the discrepancy.  If you are experiencing a custody dispute, a skilled Texas custody attorney can work with you to identify the evidence to best support your case.  Please contact McClure Law Group at 214.692.8200 to set up a consultation.

Curated by Texas Bar Today. Follow us on Twitter @texasbartoday.



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What should parents do about exchanging their children under a Texas standard possession order when school is not in session due to COVID-19?

What should parents do about exchanging their children under a Texas standard possession order when school is not in session due to COVID-19?

Originally published by The Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC Blog.

This is a question that the family law attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan have been receiving with great frequency since the middle of March. Most family court orders in Texas determine possession and visitation based on the school year calendar for the school district or school that your child attends. Without that reference point many parents were left scratching their heads as to how to proceed. With there being some question as to what will happen with school starting up (or not) in the Fall, we figured it was a good idea to continue to provide answers to these questions as we head into the summer months.

If you have been keeping your child on a set schedule with at home learning then you and your family will be ahead of the game at least when it comes to maintaining a structured environment. Many children, however, are left to fend for themselves due to a range of circumstances. Talking to your children about these abnormal times can help them to process these changes instead of just reacting to them without any context about how or why they are occurring in the first place.

Since your child lives apart from both parents you can utilize this time as a great opportunity to begin to focus on co-parenting and working together to coordinate your messages to your children, child care during the summer and what you all will plan to do during the fall if school does not start up on time at the end of summer. As unpleasant as it can be to work directly with your ex-spouse on situations like this I can tell you from experiences working with many parents in our community that it is best for your children.

What are family law attorneys advising their clients during this time?

It is beneficial to have an attorney in your corner who not only knows the law but can guide you as far as what to do in the event that a problem comes up associated with possession or visitation. If you have an ex-spouse who is not honoring your court orders or has decided to not be flexible with you during this difficult time then you may need to hire an attorney to help you sort of your options.

Without knowing your particular situation, it is tough to give specific advice. If you do want to talk with experienced family law attorneys then you should contact our office today. We can schedule you for a no strings attached, free of charge consultation via phone or video. It’s in these conversations where your specific questions can be answered. Otherwise, we will do our best in today’s blog post to provide general advice that you can apply to your life.

I think one piece of advice that is not legal in nature is that you and your family should focus on one thing above all else right now: your health. This means that you should be aware of what the government is advising you to do as far as staying healthy. However, that does not mean that you should not work with your doctor and the pediatrician for your children as well. Common sense (which isn’t so common anymore) cannot be ignored during this time, either.

Showing your child how to act in a tough circumstance can be a lesson that sticks with your child for the rest of your life. More in caught than taught with children, in my opinion. I know that with my kids they will often “forget” something that I tell them, but they will remember vividly the things I do. The habits that you display for your children as far as your health and how to take care of yourself are incredibly important for your children during this time.

Simple things that we take for granted are habits that need to be ingrained into your child starting now. This means handwashing before and after meals and making sure that the surfaces in your home are regularly cleaned seem like little things in the grand scheme of things. However, I think we can all attest to the fact that little things can make a big difference in the lives of our families right now.

Social distancing a concept that we are all undoubtedly familiar with at this stage of the game. The idea of distancing yourself from people who may or may not be ill makes sense and in theory should have been something that we did even before COVID-19 or the coronavirus became parts of our vocabulary. We should all be making sure that our kids understand why we are behaving like we are and that they begin to keep in mind how to protect themselves from sickness.

Finally, staying healthy means keeping up with the news at events warrant it. I am not saying that keeping the cable news networks on your phone or television all day long is a smart thing to do. In fact, doing that may actually do more harm than good. However, you should find a reputable news source and refer back to it when updates occur in our area. For example, as the governor begins to roll out various openings for businesses you should know when and if those changes impact you and your family.

Help your child to keep things in perspective

Your child may be one, seven or seventeen years old. Depending on the age of your child you need to be able to help him or her be aware of the changes that are ongoing as we begin to live our lives in the age of COVID-19. Eventually there will be a vaccine for this virus. Eventually we will be able to live our lives more normally than we have the past seven weeks. However, we are not there quite yet. As a result, we need to help guide our kids through this time.

That does not mean that our kids need to live in constant fear of becoming ill, getting others sick or seeing family members get sick. Someone they know may get sick, but you should help your child to understand that we all have a responsibility to keep ourselves healthy. That is how we can show responsibility to others, as well. Striking a balance between staying healthy, distancing ourselves in public when need be and educating our children on steps they can take in the meantime to keep a proper perspective on this virus.

Look to your court orders when deciding how to proceed with possession and visitation

Unless you and your child’s other parent are able to come to a mutual understanding and agreement on alternative set ups for visitation and possession, you will need to abide by your court orders. Dig out a copy and make sure that you understand what is expected of you. Those orders are not optional and do not stop working in case of pandemic. They are still the rules and you need to follow them until told otherwise by the judge from your court.

The tough part about that is your schedule and ability to care for your children during this time may have changed a great deal. For instance, if you are ill, live with a person who is ill or are a member of the “at risk” population, then you may want to allow your child’s other parent to care for your child at least for the next few weeks. Again, getting the coronavirus does not mean that you will get ill. It does not mean that worse will happen to you. However, if we are aware of the virus being passed from person to person there is no use risking your health or that of your child’s.

It would make a ton of sense for you and your child’s other parent to work out between yourselves how you would handle a situation where one of you get sick. Hopefully that never happens but you want to be prepared. Until that would occur I think it would generally be best for little to change in regard to your court orders. For one, changing court orders between yourselves will become difficult to enforce. Secondly, it will be good for your child to live their life as consistently as possible in these days where there is no school.

If you and your child’s other parent can come to an agreement on an alternative scenario for possession or visitation this week, your circumstances may change next week and one of you would simply need to change their mind for the agreed to scenario to go up in smoke. This will cause anger, frustration and a disruption to your child’s schedule. It also promotes (in my opinion) a constant degree of negotiating and back and forth between you all when it comes to modifying the orders on the fly.

The whole point of going to court, hiring attorneys and submitting them to a judge for approval was to avoid being in a situation where those orders stop working right away or are able to be changed without a great deal of thought. Coming up with new orders on the fly with your ex-spouse may work for a short period of time but in the long run may cause more problems than it solves. Talk to your ex-spouse as soon as you can about how you want to handle future periods of possession/visitation that are disrupted by this virus.

Do not try to hide your being ill if you do get sick

At this point, I’m going to guess that a lot of us know a person who has gotten sick with COVID-19. Whether or not the person got gravely ill or was just under the weather, the sickness has spread to the point of most of us having come into contact with it previously. You may have even considered what you would do if you do get sick and have a visitation time period coming up with your child. You wouldn’t want to get him sick but you also do not want to miss out on a period of visitation.

What you should do is be completely honest with your child’s other parent about your situation. If you think that you have the virus or are just sick generally speaking, then it is not wise to be with your child right now if you can avoid it. This is when working directly with your ex-spouse on coming up with visitation arrangements is a good thing to do. Our lives have all changed as a result of this virus- at least temporarily. It would make sense that visitation and possession would change as well.

You should make sure that your ex-spouse has a plan (and that you do, too) if the other one gets sick. Alternative child-care, transportation logistics, extended family who can help, etc. all need to be worked out before either one of you falls ill. This is no longer a situation where you can just say that you got sick out of the blue. We are all aware of what can happen as a result of this virus. Now it is up to us as parents to help keep our children safe.

Questions about possession and visitation in the age of COVID-19? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan

The attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan appreciate the time that you spent with us on our blog today. We post unique content here every day so we encourage you to return tomorrow, as well. In the meantime, if you have any questions about the material that we have discussed in this blog post please do not hesitate to contact our office. We can schedule a free of charge consultation for you with one of our licensed family law attorneys. These consultations can occur over the phone or via video to better suit your needs as we hopefully transition back into a more normal, and virus-free, routine.

Curated by Texas Bar Today. Follow us on Twitter @texasbartoday.



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What’s your role in the school nativity?

What’s your role in the school nativity?

Your child has been chosen as Third Shepard in the school nativity. That sinking feeling you have isn’t because they didn’t get a starring role. It’s because you know you did. Turn up to the play (like you want to) and you’ll be cast as the Judas. Stay away and, well, you’ll be cast as the Judas. There’s no winning. You’re between a rock and a hard place.

But what if you cast yourself – as the grey rock?

What if for these few precious moments of Away in a Manger and little Johnny dropping baby Jesus you can be just a normal dad sat watching your little one play the best third shepherd that has ever been played?

As we prepare for the Christmas season the levels of control and opportunities for conflict hit fever pitch. With all your emotions to play with your ex will feel like all her Christmases have come at once. And I don’t want to speak for you here, but I don’t think she was on your Christmas list was she? So let’s not give her what she wants.

Just like the teachers have handed out all the roles and helped the children practice their lines. She’s been doing exactly the same. Telling all her friends the stories, probably the children too.

Now don’t feel rubbish about that.

You and thousands of others are going through the exact same thing right now. I promise you there is never a reason to actively try and destroy a healthy relationship between a father and their children. Even if you did say her sister looked hot in that top once.

Between personal experience and community groups I am still dumbfounded, shocked and devastated by the things I see guys go through to be with their children.

Let me say, my Dad wasn’t at one single school play, parents evening or awards ceremony. In fact until I was 12 it was my reality that he wasn’t at all interested and had abandoned us. Last year (aged 35) I put up Christmas decorations with my dad for the first time ever. It was and will always be one of my happiest childhood memories, even if it did come 30 years too late.

I tell you this now because I want you to know a child’s love for their father can beat this situation your’e in. Despite having no memories of my dad and only one single photograph of us together it was enough that I never gave up hope he might love me.

So how do you show up to the school play without taking centre stage?

  1. Choose your performance. By far the easiest option is to see if there is more than one performance planned. If so you can arrange to go to the opposite one to your ex-partner. It doesn’t absolutely guarantee you won’t need these next steps too but hopefully it will give you a fighting chance.
  2. Practice your lines. Know that there is a good chance someone will wind you up, your ex, a teacher, one of their friends. Now this may be a deliberate attempt to provoke a reaction or the simplest of comments that digs away at one of those hot buttons we all have. But either way, preparation is key. Understand what is likely to piss you off and what is likely to be water off a ducks back. Then have some stock answers for the things that will piss you off. Literally write out and practice your lines, role play, pretend you’re a grey rock in the play.
  3. Choose your state. Rushing from a stressful meeting at work, through crappy traffic worrying you’re going to be late and skipping lunch will not help the best you show up. So physically prime yourself. Allow yourself time to do something that makes you feel amazing just before you go in, gym, swim, walk the dog, anything that will physically make the endorphins happen. You’ve seen Braveheart and Gladiator – those dudes went at battle in the best possible physical and emotional state for a reason.
  4. Know you can leave at any point. If things do take a turn for the more theatrical then exit stage left. Take things as far away as possible from an audience and go home if that’s what it takes. At all costs avoid a public display of crazy. (saw one of those in town today – I think someone had been a very naughty boy!)
  5. Take a calming influence with you. There’s always that one mate who tries to be a diplomat and calm things down. The one who seems to take life horizontal in all ways. They are a great person to have by your side. Especially if they know your little one too. On that note, while of course your new partner has the right to see the little on in the play I would ask if this year is the most important time for that to happen?

If you’re wondering what a grey rock reply looks like, we’ve written up some lines to inspire you… These are designed to be non-confrontational and give little wiggle room for false accusations.  Naturally you’ll want to rehearse them in a ‘Hugh Grant in Love actually’ rather than a ‘Bruce Willis in Die Hard’ kind of character!

I understand.

Yes.

No.

Acknowledged.

Ok.

Thank you.

That does not work for me.

I will think about it.

I do not agree.

That information is wrong.

I intend to follow the court order exactly as it is written.

I do not agree with your version of reality/history and choose to disengage now.

I see things differently.

Received and noted.

Please comply with the court order/parenting plan.

I will be following the court order/parenting plan.

I will think about that and email you later.

Unless something has changed, my previous position has not.

I hope you find peace with whatever you are struggling with internally that causes you to respond in a negative manner continuously. I wish you the best.

I do not feel these misrepresentations warrant a response, I see no purpose to this exchange other than to increase / incite conflict. As such, I am noting my objection and your attempts to portray me in a negative light.

I will continue to comply with the court order/parenting plan as consistency is in the best interest of the children.

Just because you say something does not mean it is true. I will abide by ​the court order/parenting plan.

I am not going to participate in your perceived conflict.​ ​I will abide by ​the court order/parenting plan.

You will just need to make your best parenting decision.​ I will abide by ​the court order/parenting plan.

You’ll need to discuss that with your therapist or solicitor.

Your attempt to elicit a negative response from me has been noted.

I will not respond to false accusations and manipulations of events.

Wishing you all the best this festive season,

The Nurturing Coach Team

The post What’s your role in the school nativity? appeared first on The Nurturing Coach.

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Going Back to School Planning Conversation with your Co-Parent

Going Back to School Planning Conversation with your Co-Parent

The goal with back to school planning is to set the year up for success so incorporate any strategies or professionals that will help you meet that goal.

The post Going Back to School Planning Conversation with your Co-Parent appeared first on Divorce Magazine.

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back to school

5 Tips For Taking Back To School Hassles Out Of Co-Parenting

back to school

 

With school events, sports, and fall activities starting up soon, handling the communication about your children is a hassle when both parents live under the same roof. If you’re a divorced parent, it’s even more difficult.

However, keeping the lines of communication with your ex effective and positive while supporting your child is important, so parents need to make the extra effort to stay organized. How do you handle the communication when the stress of all the fall activities start back up?

How To Take Back To School Hassles Out of Co-Parenting

1: Keep the school and teachers informed

Let teachers and school personnel know how to contact all the parents of your child. Explain how all the parents are involved and want to support their child’s education. Request that you will need two copies of letters, brochures, etc. Send the teacher an email with all pertinent emails and contact information so she can easily contact everyone.

2: Have ONE folder for both homes

In our family, each child has a folder that comes home with their school papers and each night the parent they are staying with reads the papers, completes the assignment, initials it, and leaves it in the folder for the other parent to see. When both parents have seen it, it is trashed or sent back to school, if needed. We inform the teacher of our system so she’s aware to leave the papers in the folder an extra day or so. If it is an urgent matter, we will take a picture using our phone and text it to the other parent to see.

3: Use the same visual reminders in both households

If you have a chore chart, it is easiest if you have the same one in both households so that the children know that the expectations are the same. Another trick that I use to help remind us of the school specials schedule is I make magnets for both homes with the specials listed for each day so that there is no confusion when they need to wear their sneakers or bring their library books to school. Use Pinterest to find little tricks to make organization quick and easy.

4: Use Technology

Find apps that make communication between divorced moms and dads easy. One app we use is FamilyWall. It allows us to share a calendar, pictures, and reminders for upcoming events.  We also all share a Google calendar as well. Our family uses FaceTime and MarcoPolo to chat with each other when the kids are at the other parent’s home. Most schools have an online grading system and online newsletters that all parents that register can review. Another app to track schedules is 2houses.

5 Track and Share Expenses

Back to school supplies can be very expensive so keep receipts or split the cost between the parents. I buy my oldest daughter’s supplies while my ex-husband purchases our son’s items. We also split birthday party gifts when our children attend birthday parties. One month I buy the gift and the next month, he buys one. We agree to a set limit and purchase a gift at that amount. Some people prefer to track expenses and split the costs monthly. The app, 2houses, offers a way to track and manage expenses, in addition to tracking your schedules.

When both divorced parents have open and positive communication focused on the success of our children, it demonstrates that we support our children’s well-being. This is especially important during transitions. With kids going back to school shortly, it’s time to get organized- especially if you’re divorced or separated. If you’re struggling, find the support you need from a life coach or therapist to learn to positively communicate with your ex to make this transition as smoothly as possible.

The post 5 Tips For Taking Back To School Hassles Out Of Co-Parenting appeared first on Divorced Moms.

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