When parents separate, important questions arise about the legal consequences of the separation. One of the paramount questions, and probably the most important question, parents ask when facing family separation is when each parent will be entitled to see the children. Texas law provides a very specific answer to this important question. Today's blog will summarize a parent's standard visitation rights in Texas.
A typical Court order in a suit affecting the parent-child relationship in Texas provides for what is known as the "Standard Possession Order". This standard possession comes from the Texas Family Code, and provides for specific dates and times that the so-called "non-custodial" parent has the right to possession of the children, to the exclusion of the so-called "custodial parent". The custodial parent retains the right to possession at all times not specifically carved out for the non-custodial parent. The standard possession order is presumed to be in the best interest of children over the age of 3. Possession for children under the age of 3 is on a case-by-case basis, and depends very much on the distance between the parents, availability and flexibility of the parents, bonding and relationships and many other factors.
The very first part of the Standard Possession Order provides that the parents will have possession of the children at all times mutually agreed. Therefore, the parents do not need to strictly comply with the detailed dates and times for visitation, if they agree otherwise. Many Texas parents routinely agree to different visitation schedules, based on the parents' schedules and availability, and the children's activities. The Standard Possession Order is intended to be an enforceable back-up in case the parents cannot agree. Most children are happier and more well-adjusted if their parents can offer them flexibility in the visitation schedule.
Specific visitation times contained in the Standard Possession Order
According to the Standard Possession Order, the non-custodial parent, absent agreement otherwise, has the right to possesion as follows:
1. Beginning at 6:00 p.m. on the first, third and fifth Friday of each month and ending at 6:00 p.m. on the following Sunday (at the non-custodial parent's election, weekend visitation can begin at the time school is dismissed on Friday and/or end at the time school resumes on Monday);
2. Beginning at 6:000 p.m. each and every Thursday during the school term, and ending at 8:00 p.m. on that same day (at the non-custodial parent's election, Thursday visitation can begin at the time school is dismissed on Thursday and/or end at the time school resumes on Friday);
3. Thirty days each summer, of the non-custodial parent's choice;
4. Alternating Spring Breaks and Thanksgiving Breaks;
5. Alternating portions of the Christmas/New Years Breaks.
Additional, elaborate provisions are described in the Standard Possession Order for many other situations, such as Monday holidays, election of the summer schedule, Mother's Day and Father's Day weekends, etc. The Standard Possession Order also provides for the exchange location and the ability to designate competent adults to assist with the exchanges. If the parties live more than 100 miles apart, summer visitation is expanded to 42 days and Spring Break to every year rather than alternating years, and the non-custodial parent may opt for less frequent but more flexible weekend visitation. The Order can also provide for electronic communication with the children, such as e-mail and phone contact.
If you are contemplating separation and you have minor children, it is critical that you fully understand your visitation rights. The attorneys of Christiansen Law Firm have extensive experience assisting families with custody and visitation issues. For additional information, contact the offices of Christiansen Law Firm in San Antonio or Houston.