Understanding Texas Visitation Schedules
In the state of Texas, visitation schedules, also known as possession orders or access schedules, are a fundamental component of family law proceedings involving children. These schedules are established to ensure that both parents have regular, ongoing contact with their children post-divorce or separation. Determining a visitation schedule can be a complex process, influenced by numerous factors that prioritize the best interests of the child.
Factors Influencing Visitation Schedules
The Texas Family Code provides guidelines that courts follow to establish visitation schedules. Key considerations include:
- The age and needs of the child
- Each parent’s living situation and proximity to the child’s school and social activities
- The child’s own wishes, if they are of a suitable age and maturity
- Any history of domestic violence or substance abuse
- The ability of each parent to provide a stable environment
While these factors form the foundation of visitation determinations, judges have considerable discretion to adjust schedules based on the unique circumstances of each case.
Standard Possession Order in Texas
Texas has a Standard Possession Order (SPO) that serves as a starting point for most visitation schedules. The SPO typically allows the non-custodial parent visitation:
- On the first, third, and fifth weekends of each month
- Thursday evenings during the school year
- Extended time during summer vacation
- Alternate holidays
This schedule is presumed to be in the best interests of children aged three and older. For children under three, courts may craft a more tailored schedule.
Customizing Visitation Schedules
Parents are encouraged to work together to create a visitation schedule that suits their specific situation and benefits their children. If parents can agree on a plan, they can submit it to the court for approval. However, if an agreement cannot be reached, the court will impose a schedule based on the SPO or another arrangement deemed appropriate.
Modification of Visitation Schedules
Circumstances change, and Texas law allows for modification of visitation orders. To modify an existing order, one must demonstrate a substantial change in circumstances affecting the child’s best interest. Examples include relocation, changes in work schedule, or changes in the child’s needs.
Enforcing Visitation Schedules
If one parent denies the other parent their court-ordered visitation, legal action may be taken to enforce the order. This could lead to make-up visitation time, fines, or even jail time for the offending parent.
In conclusion, Texas visitation schedules are designed with flexibility but are ultimately centered around what is best for the child involved. An understanding of legal guidelines combined with cooperative parenting can lead to amicable arrangements that facilitate the continued involvement of both parents in their child's life.