Texas Child Visitation

Texas Child Visitation Laws

Texas Child Visitation Travel Rules


Question: What is necessary for me to travel with my child?

Answer: On the issue of travel outside the US, the gatekeepers on this question are the US State Department, and the airline. The usual requirement now since a passport is necessary to travel, is that both parents must consent to the travel. Court orders now have provisions that deal with this eventuality. You should check with the US State Department (for the passport), and the airline for their particular needs. Do it now, and do not wait until a few weeks before a trip. Passports can take as long as 6-8 weeks to obtain, and that is if all signatures are readily available. In a difficult case, the court may order a parent to sign the necessary consent for the child to travel. This would be in the context of a Motion to Modify, which would be filed in the county that has continuing jurisdiction over the child.

Question: What are my duties to provide the children to extracurricular activities during my visitation?

Answer: Your order states exactly when you are to have the child. The order will also state if you are actually obligated to do the shuttling back and forth to extra curricular activities. Check your order again, send the other parent notice in writing for the dates to which you are entitled, then show up at his house to pick up the child according to your schedule. Go to a nearby business and buy something, anything, coke, gum, keep the receipt. Tape the receipt to your calendar. Do this when you attend a sporting event. Then do it again the next time you should have the child. This shows you were in the vicinity of the ordered pick up place/sports event place at the appropriate time.

In other words, this is evidence against the other parent for a motion to enforce visitation, or just for your motion to modify the visitation schedule. Then you are ready to file a Motion to Modify and to show the court how much time and money it takes to visit your kid. Further, it shows you have no discretion about how you spend time with your kid.

More and more, orders address the extra curricular activities for children, how they affect your access, who pays for what, etc.

Question: What is the usual visitation schedule for children in Texas?

Answer: The Texas Family code sets out a comprehensive January through December schedule involving first, third and fifth weekends, alternating holidays and extended time in the summer for the visiting parent.

The whole schedule is set out in Texas Family Code sections 153.311-153.317.

Question: What visitation is available for children under 3?

Answer: The presumption is in favor of both parents enjoying unsupervised time with kids. The Texas Family code sets out a standard visitation schedule presumed in the child’s best interest at age 3. Many courts use it for younger kids.

The whole schedule is set out in Texas Family Code sections 153.311-153.317.

Question: My new husband has a baby with another woman. What do we do if she stops allowing him to visit his child?

Answer: Regardless of any agreements between you, you should establish paternity. By establishing the identity of the father with a court order, terms would then become enforceable and you could be sure that he would be given a specific visitation schedule and given credit for any child support paid.

Question: How do I get supervised visitation between my child and the other parent?

Answer: The court will appoint the parent a Possessory Conservator unless the court finds that such an appointment is not in the child’s best interest. Texas Family Code section 153.191. There is a rebuttable presumption in Texas law that the Standard Possession Order set out in the family code is reasonable minimum possession for a parent and is in the best interest of the child. Texas Family Code section 153.252. In order to be granted supervised visitation only, this presumption must be rebutted by evidence that it would be harmful to the child, or that the child may be uncomfortable because he doesn’t know his parent.

Even if the court found that a supervised visitation schedule was warranted, it is usually short-lived. In other words, the court’s goal is generally to achieve a Standard Possession schedule for the parties and the child eventually. This is true because it is logistically difficult to implement supervised visitation since this usually requires an imposition on the schedule of a volunteer supervisor, such as a family member. Paid supervisors are available, but it gets expensive. Plus, it is not ideal because the child obviously doesn’t know the paid supervisor.

Question: How do the visitation schedules differ because of the distance of the visiting parent?

Answer: The Texas Family code sets out a comprehensive January through December schedule involving first, third and fifth weekends, alternating holidays and extended time in the summer for the visiting parent. The terms address a schedule if the parents live within or beyond 100 miles from each other. The whole schedule is set out in Texas Family Code sections 153.311-153.317.

The primary differences in the schedule for visitation when the parents are over 100 miles apart, or even out of state, are very few. Essentially the distant visiting parent would be entitled to every spring break and 42 days in the summer. When the parents are within 100 miles of each other, they alternate spring break, and the visiting parent would have 30 days in the summer.

Question: What must I do if the child won’t go on visits with the other parent?

Answer: In your child’s situation, you have an obligation to surrender the child according to the ordered schedule, which you apparently have done. If you think the schedule is inappropriate, you must go to court to modify the schedule. If you refuse to allow visitation, you could be held in contempt of the order, fined, possibly jailed and be ordered to pay attorneys fees. Courts in the Dallas area have little tolerance for refusal of access to the child under a standard order.

The upshot is that the older kids get, the more the child’s schedule and activities should be taken into account. However, the court also is concerned that the child spend extended time with both parents. There is no magic age at which the child may “choose” not to visit with the other parent. You should probably take the child to a counselor available on your health plan, which will help the child and provide necessary documentation for the court proceedings.

Question: How do I document the other parent refusing me access to the child?

Answer: Your order states exactly when you are to have the child. Check your order again, send her notice in writing for the dates to which you are entitled, then show up at her house to pick up the child according to your schedule. Go to a nearby business and buy something, anything, coke, gum, keep the receipt. Tape the receipt to your calendar. Then do it again the next time you should have the child. This shows you were in the vicinity of the ordered pick up place at the appropriate time. In other words, this is evidence against the other parent for a motion to enforce visitation, or just for your motion to modify the visitation schedule. This can be fixed.

Question: Can the parents be ordered to meet half way to exchange the child for visitation?

Answer: Generally, the visiting parent collects the child at the beginning of the visit at the home of the parent with the right to determine the primary domicile of the child. Texas Family Code Section 153.316. However, the court may make appropriate orders for the exchange of the children at another location.

The problems with “meeting half-way” to exchange the children are many, including traffic, car trouble, last minute illness of the child or the parent.

The method to bring this situation to the Court’s attention would be a Motion to Modify.

Question: What should I do if I miss visitation time because of a misunderstanding of the schedule in the order?

Answer: You may ask for more summer time or other time that the child is not in school and hope to work out a compromise. The general rule is that if you fail to take visitation time, you waive it.

Question: Does the non-custodial parent get standard weekends in the summer in addition to the extended summer visit?

Answer: Yes, the first, third and fifth weekend visitation do continue for the non-custodial parent in the summer, except for the extended summer visit of the custodial parent. In other words, both of you have the right to take a vacation with the child, including a weekend from the other parent (but not father’s day weekend). But the non-custodial parent has first choice for the summer visit.

Question: What is a mother’s obligation to provide children for visitation?

Answer: In your child’s situation, the mother has an obligation to surrender the child according to the ordered schedule. If she thinks the schedule is inappropriate, she must go to court to modify the schedule. If she refuses to allow you visitation, she could be held in contempt of the order, fined, possibly jailed and be ordered to pay attorneys fees. Courts in the Dallas area have little tolerance for refusal of access to the child under a standard order.

The upshot is that the older kids get, the more the child’s schedule and activities should be taken into account. However, the court also is concerned that the child spend extended time with both parents. There is no magic age at which the child may “choose” not to visit with the other parent. You should probably take the child to a counselor available on your health plan, which will help the child and provide necessary documentation for the court proceedings.

Question: As the custodial parent, what is my obligation to provide the child for visitation?

Answer: In your child’s situation, you have an obligation to surrender the child according to the ordered schedule. If you think the schedule is inappropriate, you must go to court to modify the schedule. If you refuse to allow visitation, you could be held in contempt of the order, fined, possibly jailed and be ordered to pay attorneys fees. Courts in the Dallas area have little tolerance for refusal of access to the child under a standard order.

Question: What is the Standard Possession Schedule?

Answer: Standard Possession Schedule is the legal term for the Texas Child Visitation Schedule. The Texas Family code sets out a comprehensive January through December schedule involving first, third and fifth weekends, alternating holidays and extended time in the summer for the visiting parent.

The whole schedule is set out in Texas Family Code sections 153.311-153.317.

Question: Who has standing to sue for access to children?

Answer: Some of the usual bases under the Texas Family Code cited for standing to sue for access to children are that the person is a parent, guardian, or person who has had actual care, custody and possession of children for at least six months ending not more than 90 days before filing suit. Texas Family Code section 102.003.

Question: Does the Standard Possession Schedule apply to children under the age of three?

Answer: The presumption is in favor of unsupervised time between parents and children, regardless of the age of the child. Dad needs to have bonding time with the child, too. The Texas Family code sets out a standard visitation schedule presumed in the best interest of children at age three. Many courts use it for younger children. The Standard Possession Schedule is a comprehensive January through December schedule involving first, third and fifth weekends, alternating holidays and extended time in the summer for the visiting parent. The whole schedule is set out in Texas Family Code sections 153.311-153.317.

On the other hand, some courts have their own policy when it comes to infant children, opting for shorter times with the visiting parent to accommodate breast-feeding, for example. These schedules usually contemplate the first, third and fifth weekends, and alternating holidays, with weekends defined as Saturday overnight instead of the standard Friday to Sunday weekend. There has been much debate on this issue because under an abbreviated schedule the visiting parent is at a severe disadvantage to bond appropriately with the child. This is also a downside for the child.

Question: What is “warm up” visitation?

Answer: Depending on the length of time since the parent has regularly visited the child, the court may want to make special orders to allow a “warm-up” period of visitation, for the comfort of the child.

Question: Will the court take into account the work schedule of the parents in determining the visitation of the child?

Answer: The name of the action to take in this situation is a Motion to Modify, which is necessary to change the visitation arrangement and possibly the child support. In my experience, the court will take the work schedule of the parties into account in determining a schedule in the best interest of the child. For example, if one or both parents work every weekend, a visitation schedule dependent on weekends doesn’t make much sense. Usually the actual logistics of the distance and timing between home and work and the school make the decision for the parties.

Question: Can children be forced to go for visitation?

Answer: Texas law is interpreted to require that the parent in possession of the child encourage the visitation and “tender” the child. In other words, get the child on the porch and if they refuse to go, so be it. However, parents must not engage in alienation of the children against the other parent. It is ultimately harmful to the children. Incidentally, the older the children are, the more their opinion is appreciated by the court.

Question: What do I do if the other parent is always late picking up our child for a visit?

Answer: In a city the size of Dallas, with this traffic, the courts generally do not get involved if the lateness for visitation, pick up or delivery, is 15-20 minutes. Most local judges regard 30 minutes as the limit beyond which you should not have to wait.

Question: What remedy is available if a temporary order concerning visitation is violated?

Answer: There are various approaches to bring the violations of an order to the attention of the court. The most harsh remedy for violation of the temporary orders of the court would be technically a contempt action, which is a separate lawsuit, involving filing fees, new service upon the person who violated the order. Because contempt actions involve a quasi-criminal situation, meaning that if the person sued is found in contempt of a civil order, they risk suffering incarceration, and the person sued may choose to remain silent.

Another approach to inform the court would be through either a Motion for Additional Temporary Orders, or a Motion for Sanctions. Either or both of these motions could be brought without additional expenses of filing fees or service of process. Additionally, attorney’s fees may be sought, along with other more creative sanctions, which could be tailored to the circumstances of your case. For example, make up time visitation orders can be requested. Finally, since jail is not a potential sanction under these options, the person sued may NOT remain silent. In other words, the court can compel answers to questions asked at the hearing.

Question: What remedy is available if a temporary order is violated?

Answer: There are various approaches to bring the violations of an order to the attention of the court. The most harsh remedy for violation of the temporary orders of the court would be technically a contempt action, which is a separate lawsuit, involving filing fees, new service upon the person who violated the order. Because contempt actions involve a quasi-criminal situation, meaning that if the person sued is found in contempt of a civil order, they risk suffering incarceration, and so the person sued may choose to remain silent.

A couple of more cost effective and immediate ways to inform the court would be through either a Motion for Additional Temporary Orders, or a Motion for Sanctions. Either or both of these motions may be brought without the additional expenses of filing fees or service of process. Additionally, attorney’s fees may be sought, along with other more creative sanctions, which could be tailored to the circumstances of your case. Finally, since jail is not a potential sanction under these options, the person sued may NOT remain silent. In other words, the court can compel answers to questions asked at the hearing.

Question: Can the other parent refuse visitation because I am behind on child support?

Answer: The short answer is No. Your duty to pay child support is not at all related to the other parent’s duty to surrender the children according to the order in place. You both may be in violation of your orders.

You should appear at the appropriate place to collect the children for visitation. Make notes on a calendar. Pay your child support; because when you take the other parent to court over lost time with your kids, you will have to address the child support as well.

Question: If the child’s mom won’t let me see the baby, I don’t have to pay child support, right?

Answer: On the issue of child support, that is a separate obligation of yours, unattached to your ex-wife’s obligation to allow visitation. You may be held in contempt of the order, fined, possibly jailed and be ordered to pay attorney’s fees. Courts in the Dallas area have little tolerance for failure to pay child support just because you choose not to. Refusal of visitation is not a valid reason to fail to pay court ordered child support. If she is refusing visitation and you are not paying child support, the court can hold you both in contempt.

Question: My spouse is using drugs. Will this affect visitation with children?

Answer: The short answer is yes. In a divorce where one spouse is using illegal drugs, abusing prescription drugs, or drinking alcohol to excess, judges routinely order that access to children be limited, exercised under suspicion, or both. The courts’ focus will always be the safety and the best interest of the child.