One of the most difficult parts of divorce in Texas is for a child or children being away from one of their parents. Children need both of their parents, but a breakup makes that more difficult. A solid parenting plan with fair and equitable visitation rights can sustain and foster good relationships for the children with both parents.
But no breakup is the same, and determining visitation rights can differ from case to case. When parents end their relationship, whether or not they’re married, the court works to ensure that the child’s best interests are protected. The parents can come to a joint custody/visitation arrangement themselves, and ask the court to approve it. However, if these efforts fail, the court will step in and make these arrangements for the parents.
Although most people are familiar with the term “custody,” the state of Texas calls it “conservatorship.” Visitation is called “possession and access,” set out in Texas Family Code, Section 153.001.
Establishing Visitation Rights And Schedule
The State of Texas has a set custody and visitation schedule the court uses as a guideline for establishing a non-custodial parent’s visitation rights. Texas also has a “standard possession order” that gives both parents to have equal possession and access to the child. The order also deals with a child’s needs during school years, and takes into consideration the child’s age, needs, circumstances, and the best interest of the child.
For children over the age of three, the standard schedule for visitation is:
- Every 1st, 3rd, and 5th weekend from 6 pm on Friday to 6 pm on Sunday
- Every Thursday during the school year from 6 pm to 8 pm
The summer break schedule gives the non-custodial parent a 30 day period with the child (or children) during summer vacation. The custodial parent has one weekend during this period. The summer visit is from July 1st through the 31st, unless both parents agree to a different time period before April 1st.
When the child is under the age of three, the court creates a suitable arrangement. Factors for the plan include:
- How the child might be affected by separation from either of its parents
- Presence of any siblings during the possession period
- A need for routine
- The availability of parents as caregivers
- The needs of the child
Additional changes can be made as required according to the parents’ and child’s needs.
The Texas Family Code that details child conservatorship and possession is available here. The state of Texas offers a short handbook for non-custodial parents, and additional information here on their website. Tarrant County also has information on its website.
Can A Child Choose Their Custodial Parent?
The short answer is “no.” Unless there is abuse, drug use, or other detrimental factors, the court will choose the custodial parent that is in the best interest of the child. This doesn’t automatically mean that the mother will receive custody—in Texas, about ten percent of the non-custodial parents are actually mothers. Should one parent’s occupation make it unfeasible to have primary physical custody (such as driving a truck or another profession requiring a fair amount of travel), the court can take that into consideration.
“I Don’t Want To Go”
The court doesn’t care if a child suddenly decide that he or she doesn’t want to visit with the other parent. Visitation is adjudicated by the court. Unless there is a compelling reason, such as the aforementioned detrimental factors, a child is required to visit the other parent. The age at which the child can choose to change or terminate his or her own visitation schedule is 18.
Visitation Rights? Contact A Compassionate Family Law Attorney
Texas children have a right to have a relationship with both of their parents throughout their lives.
Wendy L. Hart is an experienced Fort Worth family law attorney helping people throughout Tarrant County with visitation rights. As a divorcee herself, Wendy understands the process. We represent both men and women. We’ll make sure you’re treated fairly, and will protect your interests and your children.