Both parents have equal rights when it comes to children. Of course, the situation becomes a bit more complicated when the parents don’t live together. In such cases, one parent receives custodial rights (the managing conservator) in regard to the child’s physical placement. But at the same time, a noncustodial parent in Texas (called a possessory conservator) does have rights concerning visitation.
How Visitation Rights are Determined for a Noncustodial Parent
The courts encourage cooperation where parents work together to meet the child’s best interests. This includes the amount of time spent with each parent. Unfortunately, one or both parents may not be able to come to an agreement. In these cases, the court will step in to determine what is best for the child.
If necessary, the court appoints a guardian ad litem to evaluate the situation and communicate with the court. Although it can help resolve visitation disputes, it takes control away from the parents. Sometimes this means only one parent is happy with the final decision or in other cases neither parent is satisfied with the outcome.
When custody and visitation rights are in dispute, each parent may choose to hire an attorney. Although this does cost money, it may be necessary to protect each parent’s and the child’s rights.
How the Standard Possession Order Affects Visitation
In Texas, visitation is referred to as periods of possession. There is a presumption of how visitation rights are enforced depending on the distance between parents, known as the standard possession order.
For instance, if parents who live within 100 miles of each other, such as across town in Dallas, the noncustodial parent is generally granted visitation the first, third and fifth weekend of each month. It also includes Thursday evenings each week, alternating holidays, and at least 30 days in the summer.
When the parents live more than 100 miles from each other, like one living in Dallas and the other in San Antonio, the same weekend schedule could apply (or it may be reduced to just one weekend each month). There won’t be any midweek visitations, but the holiday schedule remains the same. Also, the noncustodial parent gets the child every spring break and for at least 42 days in the summer.
Modifying a Standard Possession Order
Although this is a standard visitation schedule, it can be modified to accommodate the child. An example would be if the child is under the age of three, the frequent rotating of homes may be too difficult. Or if the noncustodial parent has had little contact with the child, regular visitation may not be in the child’s best interest. In cases such as this, the visits might be lengthened over a period of time.
At the heart of any order concerning visitation is what’s in the child’s best interests. This is determined a variety of ways.
Some of the factors that may determine the best interest of a child when it comes to a visitation order include:
- parenting abilities;
- child’s wishes;
- acts or omissions of parent;
- stability of home;
- current and future emotional/physical needs of child; and
- emotional/physical danger to child now and later.
The Law Office of Julie Johnson helps Dallas parents protect their rights to custody and/or visitation in Texas. If you are in a dispute with the other parent, contact Julie Johnson by calling 214-265-7630 or fill out our online contact form to set up a consultation.