Child visitation laws in Texas aim to ensure the child’s best interests by providing a fair and equitable framework for parents to maintain a relationship with their children after a separation or divorce. This article outlines the essential elements of child visitation laws in Texas, offering valuable insights for attorneys navigating these complex regulations.
Establishing the Parent-Child Relationship
The parent-child relationship is fundamental to child custody and visitation decisions. Texas law recognizes the importance of maintaining frequent and continuing contact between the child and both parents, assuming that such contact is in the child’s best interest.
Child Custody in Texas
In Texas, child custody is referred to as conservatorship. Texas law distinguishes between two types of conservatorship: managing conservatorship, which involves decision-making authority over the child’s welfare, and possessory conservatorship, which pertains to physical custody and visitation rights.
Custodial and Noncustodial Parents
The custodial parent is the primary parent with whom the child resides and has the right to make important decisions concerning the child’s welfare. On the other hand, the noncustodial parent has visitation rights and may be required to pay child support.
What is a Standard Possession Order?
The standard possession order is simply a court order for a standard visitation schedule and access that is standard or streamlined—in child custody and visitation cases. The possession order is designed so that both parents can share equal possession of the child while also considering the needs of the child during the academic year.
The standard possession order is also designed to avoid confusion or miscommunication between parents about visitation and when each parent will have possession or access to the child. Even if the parents are in agreement about child custody and visitation issues during the divorce, contentious matters can arise afterward. For example, one of the parents might argue that a term in a possession order is unclear and ultimately gives the other parent more time with the child. The standard possession order is supposed to allow families in Texas to avoid these arguments and to avoid any confusion over the specific terms of the order.
SPO: When Parents Reside 100 Miles or Less Apart from One Another
For parents in Texas who want to know how the standard possession order will apply to their situation, the first question concerns how far apart the parents live from one another. When parents reside 100 miles or less apart, the standard possession order says that the possessory conservator will have the right to the possession of the child based on the following:
● On weekends throughout the year, starting at 6 p.m. on the first, third, and fifth Friday of each month and stopping at 6 p.m. on the following Sunday; and
● On Thursdays of each week during the regular school session starting at 6 p.m. and stopping at 8 p.m., unless the court determines that this is not within the best interests of the child.
The standard possession order for parents living 100 miles or closer to one another also contains provisions for vacations. The possessory conservator, according to the statute, also will have possession schedule visitation according to the following schedule:
● Spring vacation in even-numbered years, starting at 6 p.m. the day the child leaves school and stopping at 6 p.m. the day prior to school starting again after the first spring break or vacation.
The managing conservator, or the custodial parent, has the child for spring vacation in odd-numbered years. The statute also allows the possessory conservator to have an extended period of time with the child during summer vacation—for up to 30 consecutive days—if that noncustodial parent gives the custodial parent written notice by April 1st. There are also provisions in the statute for either or both parents to provide one another with written notice to have extended periods of time with the child.
As you can see, the aim of the standard possession order in this kind of scenario is for parents to split holidays and weekends evenly and to give parents a way to extend vacation time with the child as long as proper written notice is provided.
Custom Possession Orders
In some cases, parents may agree on a custom possession order that deviates from the standard possession order. This tailored schedule must be approved by the court and take into account the child’s best interests and the specific needs of each parent.
Factors Affecting Visitation Rights
Texas courts consider various factors when determining visitation rights, including the child’s physical and emotional health, the parent’s ability to provide a stable environment, any family violence or child abuse history, and the child’s wishes (if the child is of sufficient age and maturity).
In cases where the noncustodial parent poses a potential risk to the child’s physical or emotional well-being, the court may order supervised visitation. This means an authorized adult or agency must be present during visits to ensure the child’s safety.
Modifying Visitation Orders
Either parent may petition the court to modify an existing visitation order if there is a substantial change in circumstances or if the modification is in the child’s best interest. The court will evaluate the request based on the factors mentioned in section 7.
Enforcement of Visitation Orders
If a custodial parent refuses to comply with a visitation order, the noncustodial parent may file a motion for enforcement with the court. Texas law provides remedies for violations of visitation orders, including contempt of court, fines, and even jail time.
Relocation and Visitation
When one parent wishes to relocate, it may impact the existing visitation schedule. In such cases, the relocating parent must provide written notice to the other parent and may need to seek a modification of the visitation order to accommodate the move.
Parenting Time Specialist
A parenting time specialist is a neutral third party who can help parents resolve conflicts surrounding possession schedules and visitation. These specialists can mediate disagreements, facilitate communication, and provide recommendations to the court when necessary.
CONTACT A TEXAS CHILD VISITATION LAWYER ABOUT YOUR CASE
Texas courts can also make different accommodations when the child is especially young, but generally speaking, courts stick to the terms in the standard possession order described above. When parents can agree to all terms themselves, the court permits them to have a parent-child relationship and enter into an agreed parenting plan.
If you have questions about how child visitation is handled in Texas or concerns about a possession order, you should speak with a Texas child visitation attorney about your situation. An experienced advocate at our firm can look at your case and help you seek a modification if necessary. Contact the Law Office of Ben Carrasco PLLC for more information about how we can assist you.