What is a “50/50” and how does it work?
A fifty-fifty possession schedule is exactly what it sounds like: a schedule where both parents have equal time with their kids. However, there are several different ways a 50/50 can be accomplished:
Week on/Week off
This is the easiest to understand in terms of scheduling. Parent A will have the child for one week and Parent B will have the child the next week and the weeks alternate from there. A week on/week off schedule is most often awarded, or agreed to, when children are older (junior high and most often high school age), as there is a well-accepted notion more frequent contact with each parent is beneficial for younger children.
This is perhaps the most common 50/50 schedule and basically breaks down to Parent A having two consecutive days each week, followed by Parent B having two consecutive days and then the parents alternate weekends. For example, Parent A has the child every Monday and Tuesday and Parent B has the child every Wednesday and Thursday (the 2-2), then Parent A has the child for the weekend beginning on Friday and ending the following Monday (the 5). This weekend pattern would alternate so that the next week Parent B’s five-day block would begin on Wednesday and end on Monday.
The 2-2-3 is the most complicated of the 50/50 possession schedules, but it also ensures that both parents are getting the most frequent time with the kids. The 2-2-3 works the same way as the 2-2-5, except the parents’ weekday possession days also alternate each week. One week, Parent A will have the kids on Monday and Tuesday and on the next week, and Parent B will have them Tuesday and Wednesday. The next week, Parent B will have the kids Monday and Tuesday and Parent A will have the kids on Wednesday and Thursday (the “2-2”). The parent exercising Monday and Tuesday will have possession of the kids that weekend beginning on Friday and ending the following Monday (the “3”).
These schedules often don’t make a lot of sense in the abstract, so we’ve developed an interactive visitation calendar that will allow you to visualize how each of them work in the present year: https://hennanculp.com/resources/visitation-generator/
How Can I get a 50/50 Schedule?
The easiest and best way to achieve a 50/50 schedule is by agreement with the other parent. Most judges in the Central Texas area are hesitant to order 50/50 schedules in contested cases unless you offer some very compelling reasons why a 50/50 is in your child’s best interest. There is an upward trend in judges awarding 50/50 schedules in recent years, but in our experience, they are still generally disfavored. However, if you and the other parent reach an agreement outside of the courtroom on a 50/50 possession schedule, it is almost a guarantee that a judge will sign off on it.
Getting a 50/50 in Court
Judges are looking at a number of factors when deciding whether to award a 50/50 schedule. Their number one concern is ALWAYS going to be what is best for your kids. If you think 50/50 is best, but the other parent does not, you’re going to have to put on a strong case to get what you want.
Factors in Favor of 50/50
- Both parents have historically split the parenting responsibilities equally
- Both parents live close to each other and can independently get the child to school without too much trouble
- Both parents get along well
- Both parents can make child-related decisions together without conflict, coercion, or hostility
- Both parents are financially stable without support from the other
- Both parents have consistent, predictable work schedules
- A demonstrated history of parents doing some kind of 50/50 schedule before going to court
Factors Against 50/50
- High conflict parents
- Large geographic distance between parents
- One parent’s ulterior motive in asking for a 50/50 (i.e. not wanting to pay child support, not wanting to be a “weekend” parent)
- Unpredictable or non-traditional work schedules
- No history of parents exercising a 50/50 schedule
These are non-exhaustive lists and judges can and do consider many other factors in contemplating a 50/50 order. If you are the parent asking for a 50/50 in court, the best strategy is to put on evidence that you are seeking this schedule because it is best for your kids. If you can do this, then you have a better chance of prevailing. If it appears that you’re seeking a 50/50 to avoid child support or because you have a philosophical disagreement with the Standard Possession Order (hyperlink to description on site), you are much less likely to prevail.
How does a 50/50 Affect Child Support?
Technically, it doesn’t. Nothing in the Texas Family Code says a 50/50 can or should change the amount of child support ordered in a case. However, judges have discretion to alter the amount of child support ordered in a 50/50 scenario if they are convinced it’s warranted. The conventional thinking on a 50/50 is that if both parents have relatively equal earning capacity, neither parent would pay child support to the other. When there is a larger income disparity between parents, a judge could order the higher-income parent to pay full child support to the other, or could order what we often refer to as “offset child support.”
Offset child support can be calculated any number of ways, but the most common way is to calculate the child support obligations of both parents, and subtract the smaller obligation from the larger one. For example, if Parent A’s child support obligation would be $1,000 per month under the Family Code, and Parent B’s obligation would be $500 per month, Parent A would pay Parent B $500 per month in child support.
Bottom line: 50/50 schedules can be tough to come by—especially in a courtroom. Parents are always encouraged to work out agreements on the schedules they think will work best for their kids. When agreements aren’t possible, you need to be prepared to put on a very strong case for why 50/50 is best.