What Are the Standard Texas Child Visitation Laws?

By Heather Frances J.D.

When parents divorce, the court must decide how to split their time with their children. This split is normally made through custody and visitation terms in their decree. In Texas, child custody is referred to as possession and access. Texas courts use a standard possession order rather than a standard visitation schedule.

When parents divorce, the court must decide how to split their time with their children. This split is normally made through custody and visitation terms in their decree. In Texas, child custody is referred to as possession and access. Texas courts use a standard possession order rather than a standard visitation schedule.

Reasons for a Standard Order

Texas' standard possession order allows both parents to have equal possession and access while addressing a child's needs during the school year. The standard order is quite common, so lawyers and judges know how to interpret it. It avoids problems that may arise when an order seems clear at the time of the divorce, but it turns out to be vague or confusing later. For example, an order might say that a parent has every other weekend with his child, but questions can arise when parents disagree about who gets the first weekend or what happens when a parent misses a weekend.

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Splitting Weekends

Texas' standard possession order gives the first, third and fifth weekends to the non-custodial parent, called the nonprimary parent. Parents can choose whether they want the nonprimary parent to begin his weekend time at 6 p.m. on Friday, after school on Friday, or at some other time. Weekend time ends either at 6 p.m. on Sunday or when school starts on Monday morning. When a parent's weekend coincides with a holiday, the standard order can allow him to keep the child on the holiday too.

Holidays and Vacations

[Ref 3] Under the standard possession order, parents split holidays equally, alternating years. For example, if the mother gets to spend Thanksgiving with the child this year, the father gets to spend Thanksgiving with the child next year. Parents alternate having their child for spring break, except in situations where the nonprimary parent lives more than 100 miles away from the child. Under these circumstances, the nonprimary parent always gets spring break. The nonprimary parent gets 30 days with the child in the summer if he lives 100 miles or less away from the child. If he lives more than 100 miles away, he gets 42 days with the child.

Changing the Order

Texas believes the standard possession order is best in many situations, but the state recognizes it may not work for every family. Texas judges can deviate from the standard schedule when appropriate. For example, if the nonprimary parent works weekends, the court could design another arrangement to fit his work schedule. The parents can also change the terms of the order if they both agree. Ultimately, Texas courts are most concerned with designing an arrangement that is in the best interests of the child.

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Texas Law Regarding the Joint Custody of a Newborn

References

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Shared vs. Residential Custody

In most states, two kinds of custody apply to all separating families: legal and physical. Legal custody refers only to major decision-making, and physical custody refers to the parent with whom a child lives. A parent with sole physical custody is sometimes referred to as the residential or custodial parent; this is the parent with residential custody. When a child lives a relatively equal amount of time in each parent’s home, this is referred to as shared custody, also often called joint custody.

Standard Visitation for South Carolina Child Custody

When you divorce, you and your spouse can agree to a custody arrangement that works best for both of you and that is in the best interests of your child, and the court typically accepts such arrangements. However, if you can’t agree, a South Carolina judge is likely to order a variation of your county’s standard visitation schedule.

Texas Divorce & Custody

The Texas courts leave very little open to interpretation when it comes to child custody. Before divorcing, the law obligates parents to enter into a written, detailed parenting plan that covers almost any eventuality. The statutes presume that both parents should have an active role in their child’s life. This means that absent extreme circumstances, such as one parent posing an emotional or physical danger to the child, a Texas judge is generally obligated to order some version of joint custody.

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