The end of a marriage does not mean the end of your family. Parents remain obligated to their children financially and, hopefully, emotionally even after a divorce. For this reason, determining custody and scheduling visitation is an important part of the divorce process.
In the majority of cases, the court will award joint managing conservatorship to both parents. This arrangement involves sharing of the parental duties. Typically, one parent will be the custodial parent, and the other is designated the possessory conservator. The child will live primarily with the custodial parent, and the possessory conservator will have scheduled access.
In Texas, visitation is known as "possession and access." There are four types of potential access arrangements, including the following:
- Standard possession order (SPO)
- Modified possession order
- Modified under three possession order
- Supervised visitation order
While parents are free to make any arrangements they feel are suitable, if they cannot come to an agreement, the court will generally order an SPO. Under the terms of an SPO, the possessory parent will begin visitation at 6:00 p.m. on the first, third and fifth Friday each month. The visit ends at 6:00 p.m. Sunday, and there is an additional visit each Thursday. Parents alternate holidays each year, and there are provisions for spring and summer breaks.
A modified possession order is a variation on the SPO. These types of arrangements often accommodate work schedules or other specific scheduling issues for either parent, or for the child.
Children under three years of age may get special consideration from the court. Typically, this modified under three possession order prohibits overnight visits with the possessory parent so as not to disrupt the nighttime routine of a very young child. Finally, if supervised visitation is ordered, the possessory parent may not be in possession of the child without an agreed third party in attendance.
When an order isn't an order
If the court has ordered visitation, the custodial parent must comply. Failure to do so could result in a return to court, where a judge may enforce compliance. Similarly, if a child does not wish to visit with his or her possessory parent, it is still the obligation of the custodial parent to ensure the visits happen. However, no such rules apply to the possessory parent. The court cannot force a parent to visit with his or her child, even when an order is in place.
Helping parents establish and enforce their rights to access
All family law matters in Texas, including child custody and visitation, can be sensitive subjects. If facing these sometimes daunting challenges, your emotions could be running high, which has the potential to lead to risky and irrational decisions.
For assistance in establishing custody, setting visitation schedules and making sure your rights as a parent are protected, a trusted family law attorney may be your best option. A lawyer with experience handling all manners of parenting issues during and after divorce will fight for your rights and significantly increase your odds of receiving the best possible outcome for your situation.