As a parent, you need to know how to protect your family law rights. Whether you have primary custody of your child, or you have visitation rights, it is crucial that you have a basic understanding of the Texas child custody and visitation laws.
In this article, our top-rated Austin child custody attorney offers a comprehensive overview of child visitation laws in Texas. If you have any questions or concerns about visitation, child custody, child support, or any other family law issues, please do not hesitate to contact our law firm for fully confidential legal guidance.
Know the Terms: Conservatorship, Possession, and Access
Our state’s laws on child custody and child visitation laws are found under Chapter 153 of the Family Code. One of the many confusing things about Texas law is that the popular terms ‘custody’ and ‘visitation’ are not technically used in legal parlance. To be sure, the general concepts certainly do still exist, but the state of Texas has its own terms. The terms that you should know include:
● Conservatorship: A conservatorship is a term that is used to note specific parental rights. Essentially, this term is used in place of the word ‘custody’. If you have a conservatorship over your child, you have at least some parental rights. However, there are several different types of conservatorships. In most cases, parents are appointed as joint managing conservators (JMCs). In effect, this means that they have shared custody. If a parent is granted sole managing conservatorship (SMC), which is not often done, then they will have sole custody. Even with shared custody, one parent may be granted primary physical custody, meaning they will be the child’s primary joint managing conservator, whereas the noncustodial parent will be referred to as a possessory conservator.
● Possession and Access: Instead of using the term ‘visitation’, the Texas family code uses the terms ‘possession’ and ‘access’. Under state law, parents will generally either agree to a possession and access schedule (visitation schedule) or this schedule will be set up by a family law court. This schedule is a key part of any successful parenting plan as it will set up the basic structure for how child visitation will work in your specific case.
Understanding the Standard Possession Order (SPO)
In Texas, family law courts will assume that a so-called ‘Standard Possession Order’ or SPO is in the best interests of any child who is three years old or older. An SPO has two basic important elements:
First, this order says that a parent can have possession of a child when both parents agree that they should have possession. With the SPO in place, parents who can work together have considerable latitude to make their own decisions when it comes to child visitation.
In addition, the Standard Possession Order also lays out very specific times for when a child should be with the non-custodial parent; in other words, when the child should be with the parent who has visitation rights. When parents live within 100 miles of each other, the visiting parent is assumed to get:
● Every other weekend;
● Thursday nights;
● Alternating holidays; and
● At least one 30-day period during the summer.
When parents live more than 100 miles apart, the non-custodial parent will have somewhat less time with the child. To be clear, the Standard Possession Order creates a rebuttable assumption. While it is assumed that this will go into place, it does not have to be that way in every case.
Visitation Agreements Can Be Individually Crafted
It is important that Texas parents recognize that visitation schedules and shared parenting plans can be individually crafted. Every family is different and each family has its own unique set of needs. A visitation schedule that works great for the family up the road may be wholly ineffective for your family.
If your family has specialized concerns regarding child visitation, the best option is typically to try to work out a mutually agreeable visitation schedule. Texas family law courts are willing to give parents considerable deference when they can reach an agreement on their own. If you are negotiating a child custody or child visitation agreement in Texas, you should be represented by an experienced Austin child custody attorney who can protect your parental rights.
Modification of a Visitation Order
Reaching an agreement on a child visitation schedule can come with a great sense of relief. As the logistics can be very challenging to sort out, it can be comforting to have the additional stability that a clear, well-constructed child visitation schedule can bring to your life. Unfortunately, a child visitation order/schedule may not work forever. Life brings changes. The child visitation schedule that worked so well three years ago may simply be inappropriate for today. The good news is that Texas allows parents to seek a modification of their visitation schedule if there has been a substantial change in circumstances.
The most simple way to get a modification of a visitation order/agreement is to create a revised schedule that is supported by both parents. Of course, this is not always achievable. Under Texas law, it is sometimes possible for one parent to get a visitation modification over the objections of the other parent. If you have any questions or concerns about changing your visitation order, or if you are locked in a dispute over a modification, you should speak to an experienced Austin custody modification lawyer as soon as possible.
Get Help From a Texas Child Visitation Lawyer Today
At the Law Office of Ben Carrasco PLLC, our skilled Texas child custody lawyer has extensive experience representing parents and other family members in the full range of child visitations cases. If you need child visitation help in Texas, our law firm is ready to protect your rights.
To arrange a fully private review of your child visitation case, please do not hesitate to contact us today at 512.320.9126. From our law office in the heart of Austin, we serve clients in communities throughout the region, including in Travis County, Hays County, Caldwell County, Bastrop County, and Williamson County.