Texas Divorce and Parent Child Visitation
The right to see and spend time with your children is one of the most important rights you have as a parent. Even after you and your spouse have gotten divorced, you deserve to have an influence on your child's life, and your child has the right to see both parents. At The Law Office of Bryan Fagan, we understand this, and our attorneys help protect this right and shield your children from the process as much as possible.
The attorneys of the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC, are ready to answer your most pressing questions regarding all aspects of visitation. Including the following:
Houston Child Visitation Attorney
If you have questions regarding the visitation of your children in the greater Houston area, including contact one of our experienced family law attorney in Harris County to discuss the details of your case. We offer a free consultation, and we're always happy to answer your questions. Let us help you resolve your visitation case in a way that promotes both your and your child's best interests.
Visitation Information Center
At the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC, we recognize that every family and situation is unique with its own set of facts, and we are ready to help you create and maintain a visitation schedule that will work best for you and your children.
We are also ready to fight for you should your right to visitation with your children be challenged. The following topics are issues that commonly arise throughout the course of a child visitation case
- Joint Managing Conservator versus Sole Managing Conservator
- Determining Visitation Arrangements without Court Involvement
- The Standard Visitation Order
- Specialized Visitation Schedules
- Deployed Parents
- Supervised Visitation
- Grandparents' Rights
- Child Support and Visitation
Joint Managing Conservator versus Sole Managing Conservator
Texas Courts presume that divorced parents will become Joint Managing Conservators of their children. This does not mean that each parent will get equal time with the children. All it means is that the parents will share the rights and responsibilities that come with parenthood, including providing for and making decisions regarding education and medical care for the child.
In some cases, the Court may appoint one parent Sole Managing Conservator of the child. This means that the one parent will have more of the rights and responsibilities of parenthood, and may make more decisions regarding the child's care. The other parent will still be entitled to visitation with the child.
Whether the parents are named Joint Managing Conservators or one parent is appointed Sole Managing Conservator, both parents will have access to the child, and a visitation schedule will need to be established. This visitation schedule is called a Possession Order. The Possession Order determines when the child will be with each parent.
Determining Visitation Arrangements without Court Involvement
Many families do not realize that they may create a visitation schedule without the court's involvement. This judge will almost always abide with the parents' decision. If the parents decide to modify the agreement later, they may also do so without court involvement. The court will step in and create a visitation schedule only in cases where the parents cannot agree.
There are cases where it impossible for the parents to agree, and in those cases, it's appropriate to let the court decide. However, in many cases it can be beneficial to try and work out an agreed schedule without court involvement. This will help keep costs low and avoid subjecting the family to a potentially emotional ordeal. A parent seeking to create or modify a visitation arrangement should talk to their lawyer about all possible options.
The Standard Visitation Order
If the parents cannot agree on a visitation schedule, the Texas Family Code sets out a standard visitation schedule for children three years old and older. This schedule applies in cases where the parents live less than 100 miles apart. This schedule provides that the parent the child does not live with has custody on the following days:
- Weekends: the first, third, and fifth weekend of each month, beginning either at the end of school on Friday or 6 PM, and lasting through 6 PM on Sunday.
- Thursdays: during the school year, generally from 6 to 8 PM
- Minor holidays: the parent the child does not live with will have visitation with the child from 6 until 8 PM on its birthday. Fathers will have the child on Father's Day, and mothers will have the child on Mother's Day.
- School Breaks: in even numbered years, the parent the child does not live with will have visitation with the child on Spring Break and Christmas Break through December 28. The other parent will have the child on Thanksgiving and for the remainder of Christmas Break. In odd numbered years, that arrangement is reversed. The non-custodial parent will also have visitation for 30 days during the summer.
You can read more about Standard Possession Orders in my blog article "Texas Parental Visitation – Texas Standard Possession Orders in Harris and Montgomery County, Texas – Part 1."
Specialized Visitation Schedules
In certain circumstances, the specialized visitation schedules may be ordered by the court to account for great distance between the parents or extraordinary circumstances for the child or parents. This includes the following:
- Parents Living More than 100 Miles Apart- The Texas Family Code sets out a modified schedule for parents living more than 100 miles apart. The parent who does not live with the child will receive 42 days of visitation over the summer. That parent can also elect to see the child the first, third, and fifth weekend of each month, or may elect (with 14 days notice) to see the child just one weekend a month, depending on the parent's schedule and the distance the child will have to travel.
- Children Under Three Years Old- Where very young children are involved, the court will create a modified visitation schedule, based on the needs of the child and the preferences of the parent. Overnight visitation is usually still allowed. When the child turns three, the standard visitation order will apply, unless the parents agree differently.
- Visitation Where the Custodial Parent Moves-In most situations, the court will impose relocation restrictions on the parent with whom the child lives. For example, the court may order that the parent continue to live in the county where they lived during the divorce, or an adjacent county. This is to protect the child's social structure as well as protect the other parent's visitation rights.If the parent with custody of the child decides to move outside of the restricted area, the court will determine whether the child will move with them. One of the factors the court will look to in making this determination is how visitation and communication will be maintained with the other parent, including who will pay for the child to travel to see the other parent.
Military families have special concerns regarding child custody, military divorce, and visitation. It is important to voice all of these concerns to your attorney, so that they can help find a solution that is right for you.
- When the Parent the Child Lives With is Deployed- If a custodial parent is going to be deployed, he or she can petition the court for a temporary order granting custody to another person. This person can be the other parent, a person chosen by the custodial parent, or a person chosen by the court. This order will end when the custodial parent returns home. If the non-custodial parent is granted custody under this temporary order, then the custodial parent can choose another person (such as a spouse) to have visitation with the child while the custodial parent is deployed.
- When the Parent with Visitation is Deployed- If a non-custodial parent is going to be deployed, then the non-custodial parent may choose another person to have visitation with the child while they are gone. This person must be approved by the court. When the non-custodial parent returns home, he or she will resume visitation rights.
Supervised visitation is often ordered by the court in cases where there is evidence of family violence. Supervised Visitation means that the non-custodial parent may not be alone with the child during visitation. Supervised visitation often occurs at a place and time designated by the court.
Generally, parents have the right to decide who can and cannot have access to their child. This includes barring access to the child's grandparent. However, grandparents may petition the court for grandparent rights such reasonable access to their grandchild under the following circumstances:
- The grandparent's child does not have possession of the grandchild. This could be because the parent is dead, in prison, or has been deemed incompetent by the court.
- At least one parent must still be alive and have parental rights to the child. A grandparent cannot petition the court for access if both biological parents are dead or if the child has been adopted by someone other than their step-parent.
- The grandparent must overcome the presumption that the parent is acting in the best interest of the child. The grandparent must show that denying them access to the child will result in significant impairment to the child's health or well being.
- It is very difficult for a grandparent to be awarded access to a child. There is no legal remedy available for other family members (such as siblings, aunts and uncles, or close friends) who are seeking access to a child against its parent's will.
Child Support and Visitation
The duty to support is completely separate from visitation rights. A parent may not be denied visitation with their child simply because they are delinquent on child support payments, and a parent may not discontinue paying child support simply because they are denied visitation. A parent being denied visitation should speak with their attorney about filing a Motion for Enforcement with the court.
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