Residency Restriction in Texas

A common issue in divorce and custody matters is the residency restriction that Courts in Texas impose. The state legislature has said that they want to support and promote the relationship between the non-custodial parents and their children. They do this by assuring that there is frequent and accessible contact between the non-custodial parent and their child. In Texas, a residency restriction is applied in almost all divorce and custody cases. Geographical Limitation The Courts have determined that in Texas a residency restriction can be as big as Texas or as small as a school district. The size of the geographical area is up to the court’s discretion subject to the facts of the case that they hear at trial. The residency restriction is a court-imposed limitation on where the child can live – not the parents. If you’re the custodial parent of the child, and the court limits the residence of the child, then your residence is also limited. When one parent wants to move away with the child, the court hearing the custody case must determine whether the move is in the child’s best interest as well as the public policies set forth in the Texas Family Code. Factors For and Against In addition to using the Texas Family Code, the court may consider other factors for and against the move. These considerations include the child’s age, opportunities the move will provide, accommodation of the child’s needs and talents, the non-custodial parent’s ability to relocate, visitation and communication with the non-custodial parent, and relationships with extended family. If you want a residency restriction in Texas, you need to show...

Summer Visitation and Standard Possession Order

The following information only applies to the standard possession order in Texas. Check your order for exact times for pick up and drop off because it may be different in your order. Non-Custodial Parent For the parent with visitation, summer visitation is referred to Extended Summer Possession if you have standard visitation orders in Texas. This is the thirty days that the parent with visitation or non-custodial parent (NCP) has during the summer in addition to their standard weekends throughout the other summer months. Remember, in the summer the NCP gets normal first, third and fifth Friday weekend possessions in addition to the 30-day extended summer possession. The weekend begins at 6 p.m. on Friday and ends at 6 p.m. on Sunday. Dates to remember: April 1st is the deadline for the parent with visitation to designate the 30 days of visitation in the summer if your standard possession order is out of the state of Texas. If the non-custodial parent designated the days, then there is no problem. However, if the NCP did not designate a visitation schedule by the first of April then it defaults to July 1 through July 31st beginning and ending at 6 p.m. July 1-31st is the summer visitation schedule if the parent with visitation does not designate their visitation times by April 1 April 15th is the deadline for the custodial parent to designate one weekend in the 30-day period of possession to have the children. The weekend begins at 6 p.m. on Friday and ends at 6 p.m. on Sunday, and the custodial parent must do all the driving to pick up...

How Does Visitation Work in Texas?

Child custody issues are usually complicated and never easy. Visitation is often a main concern of parents going through a divorce. In Texas, visitation is called possession of and access to a child. A parent can get possession and access, unless the judge determines it is not in the best interest of the child and will endanger the physical and emotional well-being of the child. During the divorce proceedings, joint or sole custody is determined by the court according to the best interest of the child. The court also decides upon the terms and conditions of the rights of the parent with visitation. Parental Visitation in Texas In most cases, custody orders include a standard possession order (SPO) that sets the schedule for each parent’s time with the child. However, parents with an SPO can agree to any visitation schedule that works for them both.  If they cannot agree, then they must follow the terms of the SPO.  In each case, the type of visitation schedule is determined by the judge presiding over your separation or divorce. Reasonable Visitation. This mean that it is left to the parents of the children to come up with a plan and schedule for parental visitation. This is preferred by the courts. Fixed Visitation. In general, this means the parents follow a fixed visitation schedule that the judge orders the specific times, and sometimes the places, where the non-custodial parent is to have parental visitation. When there is clear conflict between the parents or when the parents are not willing to cooperate with each other, the courts are more inclined to place parents...

Fathers fight to split time and custody equally

A bill pending before the Texas Legislature right now could change divorce in Texas. Fathers in the Lone Star State are rallying in support of a new law to be passed that would change the child custody law.  Texas House Bill 453, authored by State Rep. James White, R-Woodville, would create a presumption of equality between mothers and fathers in spending parenting time with their children after they separate. How It Works in Texas Family Court In a Texas divorce, child custody is referred to as a “conservatorship”, which is the word used to describe the legal rights and responsibilities of a parent. Texas courts name a child’s custodian parent as a “conservator.”  The most important concern for the court in deciding on a conservatorship plan is what is in best interest of the child. Texas Child Custody A family law judge will decide the terms of a “conservatorship” unless both parents reach a custody agreement prior to arriving in a family court. In that case, the court would just need to approve it. According to House Bill 453, the courts must enter a possession schedule that divides the time equally. Texas Child Conservatorships Joint managing conservatorship (JMC) In a joint managing conservatorship both parties share the rights and duties of a parent. Even in this situation, the exclusive right to make certain decisions may be awarded to one parent only. Remember, the court uses the legal standard of “what is in the best interests of the child. The challenge of a JMC is that when a judge makes both parents JMCs it may not mean that both parents are...

Parenting Agreement for Co-Parents

Raising happy, healthy children in separate households starts with a parenting agreement Children benefit from a detailed co-parenting agreement It can be hard to know exactly how to move forward in raising your children together after having just separated from the other person that your kids depend on the most. Most divorcing parents quickly realize that the weight, worry and time spent on the divorce process may have prevented the reality of the situation from sinking in. It’s a big change when one of the parents moves out and the entire family and each parent begins a new life that includes co-parenting with a former spouse. Divorce Changes the Whole Family Co-parenting isn’t something that will be easy for every parent immediately after a divorce. It can be difficult to know how to transition and move forward raising your children together. Divorce creates big shifts in relationships within the family dynamics and with close friends. Even before the divorce is final, parents are figuring out how to parent the children from two households. What will it mean to the family? Life does not stop after a divorce, and children need some structure in their lives to be able to move forward. No matter how parents go about this, the children’s best interests are at the heart of every decision and they need to work to find compromise in the new normal. It is very important to keep the children safe and minimize the stress of living in two homes. When raising children in separate households, parents should communicate in such a way that not only keeps them informed but...

Texas Child Custody Part III: What Are Your Summer Vacation Visitation Rights?

As with other parenting time schedules, there are guidelines you must be aware of and follow for summer vacation spent with your children. Designating Possession for Summer Vacation for Non-Primary Parents By April 1 of each year, if you are the non-primary parent (parent with visitation), you may designate specific times for possession during summer vacation. You may not designate more than two periods of not less than 7 days each, which total 42 days. If you fail to designate dates for possession by April 1, you still have the right to visitation, but the Standard Possession Order (SPO) default dates apply, based on the distance between you and your child’s primary residence. For residences less than 100 miles apart, the default dates are July 1–July 31 For residences more than 100 miles apart, the default dates are June 15–July 27 What are your rights as a primary parent? As the primary parent, you may designate your own exclusive summer possession but must do so by April 15 of each year. If under 100 miles between residences, you may designate ONE weekend during the non-primary parent’s 30 days AND one weekend during the remainder of the summer during which an otherwise scheduled period of possession for the non-primary parent will not take place. If over 100 miles between residences, you may designate one weekend during the non-primary parent’s summer possession or if the non-primary parent’s time period exceeds 30 days, TWO non-consecutive weekends, AND 21 days (in no more than two periods of at least 7 days each) during which the non-primary parent will not have possession. Unlike the...