Child Visitation Overview
One of the most litigated issues involving children is the issue of possession and access, more commonly known as visitation. Visitation can be broken down in to two categories: standard and custom. In Texas, standard possession is deemed to be in the best interest of the child; however, it is becoming more common for parents to have a custom possession order that can be tailored to fit their needs.
Under a standard possession order, if the parents live less than 100 miles apart, the parent of whom the child(ren) do not primarily live with (the non-custodial parent) typically has possession of the children on the 1st, 3rd, and 5th weekends of the month, beginning on Friday at either the time school lets out or 6:00 p.m. and ending on Sunday at 6:00 p.m. That parent will also have visitation every Thursday, beginning at either the time that school lets out or 6:00 p.m. and ending at 8:00 p.m. If the parents reside more than 100 miles apart, the non-custodial parent has the choice between the 1st, 3rd, and 5th weekends of the month or one weekend per month.
Many parents have chosen the option of having an Extended Standard Possession Schedule. Under an extended standard possession schedule, the non-custodial parent can have visitation on the 1st, 3rd, and 5th weekends of the month, starting on Thursday at either the time school lets out or 6:00 p.m. and ending on Sunday at 6:00 p.m. or at the time school resumes on Monday morning. The parent would also have Thursday overnights on the weeks they do not have weekend visition.
Holidays are divided between the parents on an even/odd year basis. One parent will have Thanksgiving in even years and the other will have Christmas in even years and then the parents switch for odd years. Holidays typically only cover Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Spring Break, but provisions can be included for every holiday. If the parents reside less than 100 miles apart, the parents typically rotate Spring Break on an even/odd basis. If the parents reside over 100 miles apart, the parent who does not have primary possession is awarded Spring Break every year.
During the summer, the non-custodial parent is awarded 30 consecutive days in the summer and must provide notice to the other parent by April 1st of the 30 days they want, or it will automatically default to July 1-31st. The primary parent (custodial parent) has the option of having a weekend visitation during the 30 days if they provide notice of the date by April 15th. If the parents reside more than 100 miles apart, the non-custodial parent is awarded 42 days in the summer. The parent must give notice of their 42 days (which can be broken up into two periods of possession) by April 1st, or it will automatically default to June 15th through July 27th. The primary parent then has the option of having two non-consecutive weekend visitations during the 42 days if they provide notice by April 15th.
For children who are under the age of three, Texas allows for an "under-three provision" in possession schedules. This provision provides a "step-up" visitation schedule, which allows the non-custodial parent to have increased hours of visitation based on the child’s age, but no overnight visits until the child reaches the age of three. At that time, the non-custodial parent will have standard possession including overnight visitation.
Many parents find that a standard possession schedule does not work for them for a myriad of reasons. Because of this, many develop a custom possession schedule that is tailored to fit their needs. Typically, parents will choose to have a week on/week off visitation schedule where each parent alternates possession every week. Other parents choose to have a 2/2/3 schedule, where one parent has possession on Monday and Tuesday, the other parent has possession Wednesday and Thursday, and they alternate weekend visitation.
Possession schedules come in all shapes and sizes, so it really depends on which schedule works for you as well as the child(ren).