For the last few years in my practice of Family Law, it seems in every case involving children there has been the issue of equal (50/50) possession. I applaud both parents wanting to step up during or after a divorce and share the tremendous rigors of raising kids alone (or, most likely, down the road with a step-parent). When discussion ensues, and it gets analyzed and laid out on the table, you can’t avoid the issue of money – or child support. Why? Well, our Texas Family Code does not address child support and equal possession. Child Support is only provided for in the Family Code if one parent has a standard, or “expanded”, possession Order and the other parent has the rest of the time with the child or children. The question I always get very early in this conversation is “Why am I paying child support if I have them the same amount of time as my ex?”
The Answer? You are paying child support because your income and your ex’s income aren’t the same. The higher income earner can provide a better home, better clothes, more cell phone apps – basically more and better of everything. Therefore, Judges (although not bound to do this by legislation or statute) almost uniformly offset the child support obligations of each. If Dad is making $125,000 a year and Mom is making $50,000 a year, using the Texas Child Support Guidelines, the Court will figure out what Mom’s child support would be and then calculate what Dad’s child support would be then offset the two amounts. The bottom line is someone is going to pay and having equal possession will not stop that outcome UNLESS – both Mom and Dad make the same (or close – no definitive definition here on “close” – so beware) income.
So, agreeing to and fighting for, equal (50/50) possession of your kids when you and your ex-spouse do not make the same money can reduce the amount a parent will pay in child support thus reducing the amount a parent will be receiving. Often, (if not most) of the time the higher income earner can survive paying out whatever the amount of support works out to be – but the lower-income earner can’t afford to lose the money they would have gotten had a standard or expanded possession order been in place.