Family Law Cases in Texas: Visitation, Possession and Access

In learning more about family law concepts and terminology, you may have encountered the terms: visitation, possession, and access. Interestingly enough, possession and access are what visitation is made up of. If you are a parent with visitation rights, you are the possessory conservator of the child who does not have the right to determine your child’s primary residence.

This means that your child lives primarily with their 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 is ultimately up to you and the other parent. Suppose you all can negotiate and settle upon a visitation schedule without consulting a judge. In that case, the format of your schedule is only limited by your creativity and the circumstances of your child.

Standard Possession Order

Otherwise, there is a Standard Possession Order (SPO) outlined in 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 same 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 your family’s circumstances, 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 your 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 under three years of age. The best interests of your child and your child’s specific needs will be what a judge in your case keeps an eye on if a trial is had on this subject. In that case, limitations will likely be put on your visitation with your child if they are 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 to accommodate your child’s standard structure and routine and slowly integrate them 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 for 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 can 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 be aware of changes 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 them, 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. In this situation, the remedy for you 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 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 that you are not going to take advantage of the time allotted to you, there is no remedy for them 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 apparent- why would a judge decide to alter a child’s schedule for a parent who has previously shown little interest in spending time with your child.

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

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

The Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC, 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 if you face a family law case.

Our attorneys and staff are committed to providing our clients with excellent 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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Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC | Houston, Texas Divorce Lawyers

The Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC, routinely handles matters that affect children and families. If you have questions regarding divorce, it’s essential to speak with one of our Houston, TX, Divorce Lawyers right away to protect your rights.

Our divorce lawyers in Houston, TX, are skilled at listening to your goals during this trying process and developing a strategy to meet those goals. Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC by calling (281) 810-9760 or submit your contact information in our online form. The Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC, handles Divorce cases in Houston, Texas, Cypress, Klein, Humble, Kingwood, Tomball, The Woodlands, Houston, the FM 1960 area, or surrounding areas, including Harris County, Montgomery County, Liberty County, Chambers County, Galveston County, Brazoria County, Fort Bend County, and Waller County.

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