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Custody rules are important

Courts in Texas impose child custody and visitation guidelines and orders. These are ignored or disobeyed at a parent's legal peril. Understanding these requirements is important.

First and foremost, a parent cannot deny visitation rights if the other parent is not paying child support. There are legal means to seek relief from the court or government for late support payments. The delinquent parent can keep a record of denied visits and seek full custody.

Visitation cannot be denied if the child is sick or has a broken limb unless they are hospitalized. The other parent must also receive notice of any hospitalization.

Not liking the other parent's new spouse or significant other is no reason to deny visitation even if that person was a cause of the divorce. Other unacceptable reasons include visiting relatives unless the other parent signs a written waiver, birthdays and weddings, church activities and disasters. Grandparents generally have no custody or visitation rights.

School activities, sleepovers, parties and similar activities must be arranged with the noncustodial parent if these occur during their scheduled time. A parent cannot take their children out of town when the other parent is scheduled to visit unless that parent provides written permission.

If a parent must be out-of-town for work, they should have the children stay with the non-custodial parent. If this is not possible, the substitute caregiver or sitter should be notified that scheduled visits with the other parent must occur.

There are serious consequences for violating court orders on visitation or support. A court can hold violators in contempt, impose a fine up to $500, order reimbursement of attorneys' fees and legal costs, require the posting of bond or security to assure compliance with other court orders, or order more periods of possession or access. Violations may also jeopardize a parent's custody.

An attorney can help a parent with enforcing a child custody order or assist a custodial parent with compliance. A lawyer may also help assure that a custody order is fair and reasonable and in the best interest of the child.

Source: Fathers for Equal Rights/National Father's Resource Center, "Visitation rules & guidelines," By Susan Durham, Esquire, Accessed Feb. 10, 2018

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