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Family Law Cases in Texas: Conservatorship, the Standard Possession Order and Child Support

Sole Managing Conservatorship

In yesterday’s blog post we discussed that the typical arrangement for parents coming out of a divorce is for each to be named as a Joint Managing Conservator of their child. This, too, is the set up that you can expect to find yourself in after your own divorce. Joint Managing Conservators share equally in the rights and duties of raising their child (for the most part).

On the other hand, in rare instances, you may find yourself as being named the Sole Managing Conservator of your child after the divorce has concluded. Your ex-spouse would be the Possessory Conservator of your child. What sort of circumstances could lead a court to name you as the Sole Managing Conservator?

For starters, if your spouse has simply been an absentee parent and not part of your child’s life at all then giving him or her equal rights and duties you would not make sense. Your spouse having been out of the picture negates any argument as to why he or she ought to be put on virtually level footing with you.

Secondly, if your spouse has engaged in abuse or neglect of your child or of you during the course of your marriage then it is unlikely that he or she would be named as a joint managing conservator of your child.

After all, the judge has the responsibility to make decisions that are in the best interests of your child. It would be hard to argue the point that it is in the best interests of your child to allow him or her to have frequent contact with an abuser/neglector. It would even be worse for that abuser/neglector to be able to make decision-making abilities on par with your own.

Finally, if you and your spouse have had extreme difficulties during the course of your marriage in terms of decision making regarding educational, medical or psychiatric issues then it could be that your spouse is not named as a joint managing conservator. You would need to show that despite your best efforts, your spouse has not been willing to engage in rational thought on these subjects.

None of these examples means, necessarily, that your spouse will not be able to visit with your child after the divorce has taken effect, however. If you are named the sole managing conservator of your child this means only that you would have a superior ability to make decisions for your child in almost all respects.

Supervised Visitation

As we discussed in the prior section on Sole Managing Conservatorship, it could be the unfortunate situation that your spouse has engaged in abusive or neglectful behavior towards your child. As such, a judge may order that any visitation that your spouse has with your child- both during the divorce and afterward- be supervised. Either a third party organization or a mutually agreed upon family member can conduct the visitation periods.

These periods of visitation can either be ongoing and more or less permanent or can be temporary until your ex-spouse shows themselves to be able to act appropriately. Sometimes therapy sessions or other treatment is mandatory along with these ordered periods of supervised visits.

The Right to Determine the Primary Residence of your child

One of the rights that cannot be divided between you and your ex-spouse is the right to determine the primary residence of your child. In a joint managing conservatorship, the parent who is named the primary conservator will have this right. Your ability to move will be restricted, however, as a geographic restriction will be placed on your children. In Harris County divorces this means that you will be able to reside with your children in Harris County or any county that touches Harris.

How will a court determine which parent has the right to determine the primary residence of your child? There are many factors that a court will weigh, among them which parent has had the primary responsibility or providing daily care to your child, the age of your child, his or her specific needs and the work schedules of you and your spouse. A court will also look at whether or not you or your spouse have the financial ability to raise a child by yourselves.

The Standard Possession Order (SPO)

The theme regarding possession orders and possession schedules is that if you and your spouse can come up with your own schedule, one that suits both of you better, then that is preferable to having a judge come up one for you too. After all- nobody knows your life, your child or your circumstances better than you and your spouse. If you two are at all able to bury the hatchet and work together on a possession schedule then that is a best case scenario for you and your family.

However, if you both are not able to arrive at your own possession schedule you will need to ask a court to create one for you. A schedule that is outlined in the Texas Family Code and one that your court is likely to follow is called a Standard Possession Order (SPO). The SPO is designed to be as “fair” as possible when it comes to the allocation of time between you and your ex-spouse.

The hallmarks of an SPO are that the parent with visitation rights will have the child on the first, third and fifth weekends of each month. A Thursday evening visit from 6 to 8 p.m. occurs weekly during the school year. Major holidays are alternated. The parent with visitation rights will either have thirty or forty-two days of consecutive possession of the child depending on the distance (less than 100 miles or greater than 100 miles) he or she lives from the primary residence of the child.

An SPO can be expanded to include an overnight visit during each week of the school year (Thursday to Friday) for the parent with visitation rights as well as the ability for that parent to pick the child up from school on Friday and drop the child off at school on Mondays. From my experience as a family law attorney, this is the sort of flexibility that many parents really like about expanded SPOs.

If you find yourself in a position where you are not the primary conservator of your child you can maximize the amount of time that you have possession of your child with an expanded SPO.

It may seem insignificant at first glance, but the ability to pick your child up from school on Friday (versus picking them up from your ex-spouse’s home at 6:00) and drop him or her off at school on Monday morning (versus at your ex-spouse’s home at 6:00 p.m. on Sunday) adds many days to your overall visitation time over the course of a year.

Obviously, you should be aware of the extra time that you will need to be available for your child if you want to push for an expanded SPO in your divorce. Your attorney will be able to go over the extra responsibilities that this plan entails and to help you determine if an expanded SPO conforms to your schedule.

Establishing Child Support- Learn more about this subject tomorrow

If you are interested in the topic of child support in the context of your divorce please come back tomorrow to learn more about this subject from the attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan.

Questions and comments about divorce and family law, in general, can be addressed to our attorneys in a free of charge consultation. Contact us today to set up a time to come in and talk to us about your case, your life and anything else you would like.

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Law Office of Bryan Fagan | Houston, Texas Divorce Lawyers

The Law Office of Bryan Fagan routinely handles matters that affect children and families. If you have questions regarding divorce, it's important 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 Law Office of Bryan Fagan by calling (281) 810-9760 or submit your contact information in our online form. The Law Office of Bryan Fagan 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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