Five Rules for Father’s Day, for the Divorced and Not Divorced Alike

This is a topic people ask about a lot and I’ve written about it before, but with Father’s Day just around the corner, I thought it would be a good time to dust it off. Father’s Day always falls on the third Sunday in June. Mothers have their day in May, and now it’s the fathers’ turn. For them, spending that quality time with their kids is important, and what I’m writing about today can help when you’re making those Father’s Day plans. While much of it is meant for fathers who are divorced or getting divorced, some of it is important regardless of your marital status.

1. Father’s Day weekend begins at 6:00 p.m. the Friday before Father’s Day and, if Dad chooses, can be extended to end at 8:00 a.m. the following Monday. The Texas Family Code sets out the standard Father’s Day weekend as ending at 6:00 p.m. on Sunday, so I often see Divorce Decrees and Final Orders showing Father’s Day ending on that date and time. Dad’s option to extend it to the following Monday is often completely forgotten. Of course, this option is subject to the Court’s best interest approval, but since school is out for the summer, it’s hard to make a good argument against it. Choose this option if you’re going through a divorce, and if it’s not currently in your possession orders, ask your lawyer to include it the next time you’re revising your final orders.

2. Yes, Dad can back up his summer possession to Father’s Day weekend, and yes, that can give the appearance that he’s getting more than his allotted 30 or 42 days in the summer (depending on how far he lives from the kids). The thing is, he’s not actually getting more time. He’s just using the choices he’s been given by the Family Code. The Texas Legislature made a conscious decision when drafting the possession schedules set forth in the Texas Family Code, and they say that for one month, the script gets flipped and Dad becomes the primary conservator while Mom gets the weekends. This means that Dad is perfectly within his rights, there’s nothing you can do about it, so you might as well move past it. If you’re concerned that vacation plans or any other activities are going to be conflicted by this, then negotiate or present to a judge a modification of the way the Legislature has it set up. Once set in stone, the chance of getting it corrected is very, very slim.

3. Don’t do anything that would interfere, screw up, get in the way of, or otherwise impinge in any way on Father’s Day (or, for that matter, Mother’s Day). I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had clients who plan something (vacation, outing, recital, soccer game, you get the picture) on Father’s Day. Both Father’s Day and Mother’s Day are sacrosanct to Judges. There is no excuse nor good enough reason to justify messing with either of them. You’ll lose every single time. My best advice is just don’t do it. Even if Dad is behind in child support, or never visits the kids, or generally just makes your life miserable, this one weekend a year is going to be his. Grin and bear it.

4. For Dads with teenagers, I would refer you to the great Samuel Clemens, more famously known as Mark Twain. My own Father loved this quote and often repeated it to me as I grew into manhood. I wish he would have been on this earth for the past 25 Father’s Days, but since he hasn’t I’m reminded of him and our relationship every time I read it. It would be wise for every Dad with teenagers – girls or boys – to commit this to memory:

“When I was a boy of fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be twenty-one, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years.”

5. Perception is everything. How you’re perceived by your children and how you perceive them is the foundation for your relationship with one another. Always remember that, when your time here on earth comes to an end, it’s that perception that will live on in your child’s mind. Build the foundation for their perception with care, honesty, love, and time. If you can do that, it’ll last a lifetime and beyond.

There you have it. It goes without saying that many Dads out there take Father’s Day just as seriously – maybe even more so – as the Texas court system. It’s important for both them and their kids and should be respected. When it is, everyone comes out a winner. If you have questions about how the law relates to Father’s Day or any other holiday, don’t hesitate to reach out to our attorneys.

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