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.

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.

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.

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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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Out of State Visitation Statutes in Texas
 

References

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Colorado Joint Child Custody Laws

Colorado is one of the more progressive states when it comes to joint parenting post-divorce. Although many state courts won't order joint custody -- especially when parents are reluctant to try to get along -- Colorado judges order or approve the arrangement approximately 20 percent of the time, according to Marrison Family Law in Colorado Springs. The state assumes that joint custody is in the best interests of the children, unless parents are opposed to it, have an extremely hostile relationship, or one parent is unfit.

Texas Law Regarding the Joint Custody of a Newborn

When Texas parents divorce, the court splits custody between the parents based on the best interests of the children involved. No two situations are exactly the same, and the best interests of the children can vary according to their ages. Thus, the custody arrangements created for a newborn are typically different from those created for an older child.

Baby Visitation Rights

When parents divorce, if the court does not award primary physical custody of the child to one parent that parent will almost certainly have the right to visitation with the child. This rule is virtually absolute, except in cases of documented domestic abuse or if other circumstances make a parent unfit. If your child is still a baby, however, special considerations apply. This does not mean you cannot have visitation, but your parenting plan must accommodate the particular needs of an infant.

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