When parents divorce or separate, the parents or a family court judge will decide how to allocate parental responsibilities and rights. There are two types of custody — physical and legal. Legal custody determines which parent has the right to make parenting decisions, and physical custody determines where the child will live and which parent will take care of the child daily. When a court awards sole physical custody to one parent, the judge will generally award the other parent visitation rights, also called “parenting time.” Visitation rights give the non-custodial parent the right to spend time with their child.
- What are the Laws Related to Visitation in Texas?
The Texas Family Code calls child visitation “possession.” Unless there are safety concerns, both parents should receive “frequent and continuing” time with their child or children. When parents cannot agree to a visitation schedule on their own, Texas courts frequently use the Standard Visitation Schedule as a guide for a custody and visitation agreement.
- How Much Time Will the Non-Possessing Conservator Receive?
Parents have the right to negotiate a custody and visitation arrangement that works for them. When parents cannot agree, a judge will decide and may use the Standard Visitation Schedule. According to the Standard Visitation Schedule, visitation depends on how close the parents live to each other. If the parents live less than 100 miles apart, the parent without physical custody can usually expect four weekends per month.
The parent with physical custody can request one weekend a month with written notice. When parents live 100 or more miles away, they may only receive one weekend of visitation monthly but may receive over a month of extended summer vacation. Holidays and birthdays usually alternate between parents each year.
- Can We Change the Visitation Schedule on Our Own?
Parents must give the other parent notice to claim visitation time or modify the visitation schedule. Regardless of which parent has custody of the child for their birthday, the other parent usually has a right to spend a few hours with the child celebrating a birthday. It is important that parents read their court-ordered visitation schedule carefully for any other unique rules that might affect their parenting time.
- Do We Have to Use a Standard Visitation Schedule?
No, you do not have to use the Standard Visitation Schedule. Every family is unique, and the guidelines in the Standard Visitation Schedule may not work for your family. You and your co-parent can negotiate a reasonable and fair schedule that is in your child’s best interest. If you and your co-parent do not know where to start when developing a schedule, you may want to read through the Standard Visitation Schedule as a baseline. Negotiating a schedule with your ex-spouse or partner is not always possible or wise. In that case, a court will decide.
- Can I Refuse Visitation if My Ex-Spouse or Ex-Partner is Refusing to Pay Child Support?
You cannot refuse visitation because an ex-spouse is not paying child support. However, you have the right to petition the court to enforce the child support order. If you do not allow visitation, your ex-spouse could petition the court to bring an enforcement issue against you.
- What Counts as a Denial of Visitation?
If your ex-spouse denies you the visitation the court has ordered, you can petition the court to enforce the visitation order. You will need to show that you were following the order as written and that your co-parent was not following it. In other words, you will need to show that you showed up at the correct location on the correct date and at the time stated in the custody order. You should go to the exchange location and record your attempt to see your child. Make sure you write down exactly what happened if you were denied visitation.
- How Do I Enforce Visitation?
When you petition the court to enforce the child custody agreement, you may be able to pursue several types of remedies. Generally, you will be asking the court to enforce the order and require your ex-spouse to surrender your child for visitation at the specified location and time. You may also receive financial relief for expenses incurred while attempting visitation that your ex-spouse denied. The court may award additional parenting time for you to spend with your child.
- My Ex is Abusive. How Do I Stop Them From Getting Visitation?
Texas Family Courts have made it clear that both parents have a right to spend time with their children and be engaged in parenting. However, a parent’s right to visitation can be limited if it will negatively impact the child’s safety. when a parent is incapable of interacting with the child safely, the court may consider zero visitation. A family court judge is more likely to award supervised visitation than no visitation unless there are serious safety concerns.
- What is Supervised Visitation?
A judge can order supervised visitation in which a supervised visitation specialist will watch over the parent and the child during visitation. These professionals have received training on keeping a child safe without interfering with appearance ability to foster an appropriate relationship with the child.
- Can Grandparents Get Visitation with Grandchildren?
In most cases, grandparents cannot receive visitation through a court order. However, if both parents cannot interact with a child safely, the court may decide whether grandparents should be included in the child’s life. In these cases, the grandparent may decide to pursue custody of the child temporarily or permanently.
Do You Have Questions About Visitation? Contact a Skilled Texas Visitation Attorney
If you have questions or concerns about the visitation process, the best thing you can do is reach out to an experienced family law attorney. Attorney Vonda Covington has extensive experience advocating for families in various visitation matters. She provides compassionate, effective legal counsel for families in Richmond, Texas, and the surrounding area. Contact Covington Law Firm, PLLC, today to schedule a case evaluation and learn more about how we can fight for you.