Many of my clients’ biggest concerns when contemplating divorce is what access to their children will be after the marriage ends. The first thing I tell my clients is to not worry: provided there are no issues related to the children’s safety, the State of Texas wants a divorced parent to have enough access and be an involved parent. If you want to be an involved parent, the law will support you and your ex-spouse, most likely, will not be able to prevent you from seeing your kids. But how exactly does the law divide up the time with the Children?
In many cases the parties can come to an agreement on a specific schedule that works with their family and circumstances. Texas Courts generally accept and approve a schedule of visitation that the parents create by agreement. In cases where the parents cannot agree, the most common visitation schedule for the non-custodial parent is called the Standard Possession Order. It grants the non-custodial parent time with the child every Thursday evening during the school year, and the every first, third, and fifth weekend of each month beginning at 6:00 p.m. on Friday and ending at 6:00 p.m. on the following Sunday. In addition to these times, the non-custodial parent also has the children 30 days in the summer, alternating spring breaks and other major holidays like Christmas and Thanksgiving.
Furthermore, if the non-custodial parent believes that Standard Possession schedule is not enough time with the children, that parent can negotiate an agreement for more time with the other parent or ask the Court for a schedule that divides the time with the children 50/50. At the end of the day, it is important to understand that when choosing to get a divorce, it does not mean giving up a parents ability to have meaningful time with their children.
To that end, a Standard Possession schedule is not mandatory. As difficult as it may be for people in the heat of the moment of a divorce or SAPCR case, negotiation and keeping the best interests of the child is paramount. Often times, parents come to the negotiating schedule and make highly customizable possession schedules that meet their particular moment in time, with an eye on the future. Take for example a child that is under 3 years of age. In Texas, there is no Standard Possession schedule for a child under 3. In fact there is not even a recommended schedule. Common practice is to have a “ramped up” visitation schedule where the days, time, and length of visitation with the young child are extended gradually with the possessory parent until the child is 3. (I.e. Until the child is 1 year old, visitation is on Monday from 5-8 p.m., and no overnight visits. From ages 1-2 visitation is on Monday and Wednesday from 4-9 p.m. and one overnight visit a week. From ages 2-3 visitation is Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday from 4-9 p.m., and the weekend starting Friday at 6 p.m. and ending on Sunday at 6 p.m.)
Disclaimer: The legal information presented herein should not be construed to be formal legal advice nor the formation of a lawyer/client relationship. General advice should always be tested by the particular facts and circumstances of each case. Legal advice is almost always case specific. Statues, ordinances, legal procedures, case law and rules of evidence are often revised.