Family Law Cases in Texas: Visitation, Possession and Access

In learning more about family law concepts and terminology you may have come across the terms: visitation, possession and access. Interestingly enough possession and access are what visitation is actually made up of. If you are a parent with visitation rights than you are the possessory conservator of the child who does not have the right to determine the primary residency of your child. This means that your child lives primarily with his or her other parent and that you have visitation rights on the weekends and other times throughout the year. What are the types of visitation that you may have been ordered to have?

Types of visitation orders in Texas

If you go through a divorce or Suit Affecting Parent Child Relationship (SAPCR) in Texas there are a variety of ways that your visitation could be structured. Keep in mind that the schedule itself is ultimately up to you and the other parent. If you all can negotiate and settle upon a visitation schedule without needing to consult a judge then the format of your schedule is only limited by your creativity and the circumstances of your child.

Otherwise, there is a Standard Possession Order (SPO) that is outlined within the Texas Family Code. This visitation arrangement essentially would provide you with visitation with your child every other weekend of the month, a Thursday night visit from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. as well as alternating holidays of visitation for Thanksgiving and Christmas. The SPO allows you to have thirty days of visitation with your child during the summer months, or forty two days if you live more than 100 miles away from your child.

The exact periods of possession for an SPO are spelled out clearly in the Texas Family Code. If you are interested in seeing the specific dates accounted for I would recommend you access the Code online and take a look for yourself. This is the default visitation schedule that most judges in Texas fall back on if you and the other parent cannot agree on your own to a visitation schedule.

Modified Possession Orders

The Modified Possession Order is similar to the SPO but has slightly modified lengths of visitation for particular times of the year. Depending on the individual circumstances of your family attributes of the possession order may have to be changed to suit you, your child or the other parent. More time may be allowed to you as your child gets older if you order begins when your child is very young, for example.

A variation on the Modified Possession Order is a Modified Possession Order for a child who is under three years of age. The best interests of your child and the specific needs of your child will be what a judge in your case keeps an eye on in the event that a trial is had on this subject. In that case, limitations will likely be put on your visitation with your child if he or she is under three years of age at the time the orders are rendered.

Overnight visitation may be limited and your time with your child may occur only during daylight hours in order to accommodate your child’s normal structure and routine and to slowly integrate him or her into a changed life schedule. In general, if you are a parent who has always been involved in your young child’s life then you stand a good chance at being able to have the overnight visits with your young child that other parents may not be as able to win.

Having visitation orders for a young child requires a certain amount of cooperation and “co parenting” between you and the other parent that may not be as necessary when it comes to older kids. There is simply more shared responsibility for raising a young child than there is compared to an older child.

Younger children are more rigid in their schedules and habits and need more structure to establish a routine. This is opposed to older children who are able to better adapt to change in most circumstances and require less “normalcy” to thrive. You and the other parent should work together to help each other to be aware of changes that are needed on a day to day or even week to week basis for your child based on their changing needs. If their bedtime has changed over the past week or a new medication has been prescribed to him or her it is best to make the other parent aware of this.

Some “What happens if…” scenarios to run by you

The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry. So goes a famous line from American literature. The basis of the quote is that no matter how well thought out or intentioned a plan is, life gets in the way sometimes and causes that plan to fall by the wayside.

One of those life issues that can arise in your situation is your child’s other parent not following the orders that arose out of your family law case. You may have family members or friends who were denied the opportunity to see their child by the child’s other parent. The remedy for you in this situation is to take the other parent back to court to have the judge enforce the terms of the order.

You would have to be able to present evidence to the court showing that you did everything that you were supposed to do in order to take advantage of the visitation time allotted to you in the order and that the other parent did not live up to their responsibilities in making your child available to you at that time.

Your enforcement petition must specify the date, time and location where you were denied visitation. It is advisable to hire an attorney to proceed with an enforcement case as these are not simple cases to handle on your own.

On the other hand, what if you are ordered to have visitation with your child for the weekend and you do not pick your child up at 6:00 at their other parent’s home? The fact is that the other parent cannot force you to have visitation with your child. As long as you make the other parent aware of the fact that you are not going to take advantage of the time allotted to you, there is no remedy for him or her to go to the judge and attempt to enforce the terms of the order.

The downside to this sort of situation as far as you’re concerned is if you stack enough of these missed visitation opportunities on top of one another it becomes almost impossible for you to win additional periods of visitation down the line if you want to modify the court order that is in place. The reason for that should be obvious- why would a judge decide to alter the schedule of a child for a parent who has shown little interest previously in spending time with your child.

Above all else, exercise every period of possession with your child that you are entitled to. It is good for your child, for you and can benefit you in the long run if you want to ever modify your present court order.

Moving, geographic restrictions and other issues visitation to be discussed tomorrow

The Law Office of Bryan Fagan will continue our discussion of Texas Family Law topics tomorrow when we ask and answer more questions that will be almost assuredly relevant to you and your family in the event that you are facing a family law case. Our attorneys and staff are committed to providing our clients with great service and would be honored to speak to you about becoming a client of ours. Contact us today to schedule a free of charge consultation in which we can answer your questions.

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