Divorce is hard. The process is emotionally draining and tumultuous for people whose marriages are ending. If kids are involved, the proceedings are doubly stressful. At the Law Office of Wendy L. Hart, we understand; one of the first questions many of our divorce clients ask us is “when will I see my children?” The Texas Family Code guarantees certain rights to each parent, but the exact visitation schedule you’ll have can be complicated to figure out. In this article, we’ll unravel the complexities and give you an idea of what to expect.
Bear in mind that no two divorces are alike; there is a different set of circumstances in each, and no one article can apply to every case. This fact highlights why having an experienced and compassionate Texas divorces lawyer like Wendy L. Hart is so essential. Since 2001, she has been helping DFW area families navigate divorce and other family law issues. If you are considering a divorce and need advice on how visitation and custody issues are handled in the State of Texas, contact us at (817) 842-2336 or via our website.
Visitation in Texas—the Basics of Possession and Access
In Texas law, the term used for visitation is “possession”—whenever a child is with one of their parents, that parent has possession. Having possession of a child in Texas confers on a parent certain rights and responsibilities, including:
· The care, control, protection, and reasonable discipline of the child
· Providing clothing, food, shelter, and non-invasive health care to the child
· Consenting to non-invasive or emergency medical and dental care
· The right to direct the moral and religious training of the child
“Access” is the term that the Texas Family Code uses to describe the right of the possessory conservator (a parent with whom a child does not reside) to see his or her children. The access schedule can follow a standard formula that described in the law, or it may be created and agreed to by both parties to the divorce. Either way, the court must approve the schedule, which will then become a court order that both parents are legally obligated to follow. Obviously, the best situation is when both parents can agree on an access schedule that works for them and enables their children to have a close relationship with both parents. The Law Office of Wendy L. Hart always strives for a mediated settlement in these cases, but that isn’t always possible. In cases where the parents just can’t agree, the Texas courts will impose the legally mandated standard access schedule.
The Standard Access Schedule (for children age three and older)
If the child’s (or children’s) parents are unable to agree on a visitation schedule, the court will decide when the managing conservator (the child the parent resides with) and the possessory conservator will have access to their child. In Texas, that schedule is somewhat based on the distance that the two parents live from one another:
· 100 miles apart or less: The possessory conservator would have access to his or her children on the 1st, 3rd, and 5th Friday of the months. Access would last from 6 pm on those Fridays until 6 pm on Sunday—basically a full weekend. Additionally, during the school year, the possessory conservator would have access to their children each Thursday night of the school year, from 6 pm to 8 pm. On school holidays, visitation would begin at 6 pm on Thursday or last until 6 pm on Monday (if Monday is the off day from school). Some alterations to the standard order can be made by the parents to allow visitation to allow your ex-spouse to pick up and drop off the kids at school.
· Greater than 100 miles apart: The standard order for less than 100 miles is changed to allow the possessory conservator one weekend per month of his or her with the children. Additionally, this parent would be granted all of spring break and 42 days during the summer vacation.
What about Access Schedules for Children under Three Years of Age?
Texas Family Court judges are particularly sensitive to the needs of very small children and may alter the standard access order to best suit each child’s needs. To determine access, the court will take into account a multitude of factors, including each parent’s willingness to care for a small child, the child’s physical and developmental needs, the financial and physical health of each parent, emotional and social conditions, siblings, and the proximity of the parent’s homes. The goal is to ensure that each child’s routine maintains a sense of continuity and that each child has the opportunity to bond closely to both parents. A divorce involving young children is a situation where reaching an agreement with the help of a sensitive and experienced DFW area divorce attorney is particularly valuable. The Law Office of Wendy L. Hart has helped many divorcees navigate these potentially turbulent waters. You want to ensure that your small child gets all of the love and support he or she needs—we can help.
How about Holidays?
Visitation on the holidays can be an issue on which parents find it hard to agree. The Texas standard access order specifies a holiday schedule in the Family Code. The holiday schedule is unaffected by the distance between the parents and is laid out as follows:
· Child’s birthday: Possessory conservator gets the child from 6 pm to 8 pm
· Spring Break: Odd years with the managing conservator, Even years with the possessory conservator (unless the distance is greater than 100 miles)
· Mother’s and Father’s Days: With that respective parent
· Thanksgiving: Odd years with possessory conservator, even years with the managing conservator
· Christmas (1st half of break): Odd years with managing conservator, even years with possessory conservator
· Christmas (2nd half of break): Odd years with possessory conservator, even years with managing conservator
The Wendy L. Hart Difference
When it comes to divorce, few issues will cause more stress and emotional strain than deciding what visitation schedule is best for you and your children. For nearly 20 years, the Law Office of Wendy L. Hart has been skillfully helping families through the pain of divorce. While we zealously represent our clients in court, we understand the power that mediation has to reduce the toll that your divorce can take on your finances, time, and emotional health. If you are considering a divorce and want to understand your options, call us today at (817) 842-2336 or contact us via our website.