Custody and Visitation Plans in Texas
- Shared parental rights with your ex-spouse
- Custodial and non-custodial parent rights
- Child possession vs. child access
- Standard possession orders
Spending time with your child is important – perhaps even more so during and after a divorce. But potential complications exist in Texas when creating time-sharing arrangements.
Your time with your child is important
As a parent, the prospect of a divorce is daunting. Even more difficult may be the impact it will have on your children. As you consider your rights and plan for the future, it’s important to recognize that time apart from your children may be inevitable, but making sure they receive quality time with each parent is essential.
In most Texas divorce cases, parents share rights
Joint Managing Conservatorship (JMC) is a legal arrangement in Texas divorce that grants parents equal rights and responsibilities for the care and upbringing of their children, even if they are no longer married or living together. This arrangement gives both parents legal and physical custody of the child, though decision-making authority may be granted to just one parent.
JMC can be established in an agreement between parents. This is often considered the best route. But in some cases, parents may be unable to reach a suitable agreement on their own. Hence, court involvement becomes necessary.
If the court gets involved, a judge will review the unique circumstances of your divorce case and consider the best interests of the child. They will consider many factors:
- The physical, psychological, and emotional fitness of each parent
- The ability of each parent to financially provide for the child
- The ability of each parent to provide a safe and supportive home
- The geographical proximity of each parent's residence
Suggested: How Is Child Support Calculated in Texas?
Custodial and non-custodial parent rights
In most cases, one parent is named the custodial parent. This means they get to decide where the child lives. The other parent is designated as the non-custodial parent.
A custodial parent has primary rights to the child and is usually provided with some form of financial support from the non-custodial parent.
Given this, it’s important to remember that both parents have equal rights and responsibilities in making decisions about their children regardless of who is the custodial parent. What’s more, the custodial parent cannot refuse the non-custodial parent access to their child.
Child possession vs. child access in Texas
In Texas, child possession and child access are two important concepts to understand. Child possession refers to the physical presence of each parent with their child. Child access refers to the communication between a parent and child.
Child possession in Texas
Child possession can be established through a court order or an agreement between parents about how much time the child will spend with each parent. Generally speaking, courts prefer that parents reach an agreement on how to divide their time with the child so that there is consistency and predictability in the child's schedule. When no such agreement is made, however, Texas courts have several legal guidelines they use to decide which parent gets custody of the children.
Child access in Texas
Child access rights reflect the non-custodial parent’s right to visit with a child under certain circumstances. Visitation may be established through an agreement between both parents or by court order. Visitation can be flexible and can include overnight visits or visits at specific times, such as holidays and special occasions.
What is a standard possession order?
A standard possession order (SPO) sets the schedule for each parent's time with their child. These are often included in custody orders. A standard possession order provides the non-custodial parent with possession of the child on specified days and explains to the parents when and where to exchange the child.
Parents who are unable to agree on a custody arrangement in their divorce proceedings can seek a court-ordered solution. In this case, the court will provide an SPO using basic terms providing the non-custodial parent with visitation a few hours per week and a few days per month. Without specific elections, a basic SPO will include the following times for the child to spend with the non-custodial parent:
- First Friday of the month at 6:00 p.m. until Sunday at 6:00 p.m.
- Third Friday of the month at 6:00 p.m. until Sunday at 6:00 p.m.
- Fifth Friday of the month at 6:00 p.m. until Sunday at 6:00 p.m.
- Every Thursday during the school year from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.
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FAQ about custody and visitation in Texas
What if one of us lives more than 100 miles away?
When parents live a substantial distance from each other, that creates challenges for shared parenting responsibilities. If parents live over 100 miles apart, Texas provides a few options for weekend overnights:
- The non-custodial parent can choose the first, third, or fifth weekend of the month.
- The non-custodial parent can choose one weekend per month with at least two weeks' notice.
- The selection of one weekend per month must be made in writing to the custodial parent within 90 days of the parents living over 100 miles away.
Can I get extended time with my child in the summer?
Yes. In Texas, if you are a non-custodial parent and live within 100 miles of the custodial parent, you're entitled to 30 days of time with your child during the summer. If you live over 100 miles from the custodial parent, you're entitled to 42 days of time with your child during summer.
Custodial parents can designate one weekend during this time that they want to spend with the child during the summer.
Should I have an attorney help me draft my custody or visitation plan?
It's not always necessary, especially if you and your child's other parent get along and can fairly negotiate custody terms. But if you're unable to successfully negotiate custody terms, you may want to consider a lawyer. Especially if you have a complicated SPO, you may also want to use a lawyer.
At Hello Divorce, we are familiar with Texas family law and can help you through your divorce process and the issues that may follow, including child custody and child support issues. If you would like to speak with one of our account coordinators to learn more about our Texas law expertise and helpful resources, schedule a free 15-minute phone call.