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Disclaimer:
  The legal information provided on this website is the product of Legal Aid NorthWest Texas (LANWT). None of the legal information on this website is associated with or the product of the Office of the Attorney General of Texas or any of its employees.


CHILD VISITATION


Q. What happens if I have to work on a weekend when I am supposed to have my children?

A. If you cannot pick up your children when it is your time for possession, you must notify the custodial parent and the children ahead of time. Virtually all visitation orders allow the parents to swap weekends, or make any other visitation arrangements they wish, as long as both parents agree on the change. If both parents cannot agree on a change, then that visitation period is lost.


Q. Do I have to pick up my children personally or can I have someone else do it for me?

A. Normally either parent may designate any competent adult to pick up the children or be there when they are dropped off.


Q. The custodial parent wants to move out of state with my children. What can I do?

A. If there is no court order regarding your rights, immediately consult an attorney and begin court action while Texas still has authority to make decisions about the children. If there is a court order, carefully read the custody portion of the court order. Most court orders state which parent has the right to determine where the child lives and often it will include a geographic restriction on where the children may live. However, it is possible the custodial parent would have the right to move without geographic restriction. If this is the case, you can contact an attorney to modify that order and prevent the move.


Q. We just split up and the other parent has the children. Is the other parent required to allow me to see my children?

A. Unless a child was born during the marriage, some other presumption of paternity exists, or the unmarried parents have signed and filed an Acknowledgement of Paternity (AOP), a biological father has no legal rights concerning the child.

If you were married, but now separated, and there is no court order for visitation, there is no legal requirement for one parent to let the other parent visit with the child.

Q. The custodial parent refuses to let me see my children. Can I stop paying child support?

A. No. The expenses for the child’s food and shelter continue whether visitation is ongoing or not.  If one parent violates the court order, the other parent does not have the right to violate it as well. If both parents violate the court order, each of you could be held in contempt. Contempt of court can result in up to six months in jail and a $500 fine for each violation. If the custodial parent refuses to allow visitation, contact a lawyer and ask the court to enforce the visitation. If there is a Domestic Relations Office in your area, contact that office to determine if they can assist with visitation enforcement.  The child support obligation must still be paid in accordance with the latest court order.

Q. The custodial parent has moved farther away. What can I do about the extra costs of visiting my children?

A. If a change of residence results in increased expenses for you, the courts can make an order to allocate the increased expenses.  A motion to request that the court modify the existing order is necessary.


Q. What is the usual visitation schedule?

A. State law provides the Standard Possession Order. The law assumes that this order is in the best interest of the child if the child is age three or older. If the child is under the age of three, the court will render an order appropriate under the circumstances, with a standard order likely taking effect on the child's third birthday. If you want more visitation than this provides, or if the other parent wants less visitation for you, or wants supervised visits, then that person must show the court how granting them their request would be in the best interest of the child. The Standard Possession Order is summarized below.

  • Weekends - under the standard possession order, the non-custodial parent has the children the first, third, and fifth Friday of each month beginning at 6:00 p.m. until the following Sunday at 6:00 p.m. and each Thursday from 6:00 p.m. until 8:00 p.m. You may elect to have the children from Friday when school is out until 6:00 p.m. the following Sunday. You may also elect Thursday when the child is released from school until school resumes the next day. But you must make this designation in the written order and you are responsible for making sure the child gets to school on time. If the Friday or Monday before or after your weekend is a holiday, your weekend is extended. For example, if Labor Day is the Monday following your weekend, then you get to keep the children until that Monday rather than Sunday. If any of the holiday provisions below conflict with the weekend schedule, the holiday schedule is observed.
     
  • Spring Break – The parents alternate each year. The non-custodial parent will get even-numbered years beginning at 6 p.m. the day school is released and ending at 6 p.m. the day before school resumes.
     
  • Summer – If you provide written notice to the custodial parent on or before April 1 of each year, you may designate 30 days each summer for possession of the children. This can be broken up into two separate periods but each period must be at least 7 days. You cannot begin this possession earlier than the day after school is out and it must end at least seven days before school resumes.

    If you do not give written notice by April 1, then you will get the children beginning at 6 p.m. on July 1 and ending at 6 p.m. July 31.

    If the custodial parent gives you written notice by April 15, they may designate one weekend that they will have the children during your summer visitation. The custodial parent will be responsible for picking up and returning the children to you if they choose to exercise this visitation.
     
  • Christmas – The noncustodial parent will have the children in even-numbered years beginning at 6 p.m. on the day the child is dismissed from school for Christmas vacation and ending at noon on December 26 (or December 28 if your order was signed after June 15, 2007) The custodial parent will then have the child from noon on December 26 (or December 28 if your order was signed after June 15, 2007) until school resumes. In odd-numbered years you would switch.
     
  • Thanksgiving – The noncustodial parent will have the children in odd-numbered years beginning at 6 p.m. the day school is dismissed for Thanksgiving and ending at 6 p.m. the following Sunday. In even-numbered years you switch.
     
  • Birthdays – The parent who is not normally entitled to have possession of the child on the child’s birthday is entitled to pick up the child at 6 p.m. and return the child at 8 p.m. on the child’s birthday.
     
  • Father’s Day – The father will have possession of the children beginning at 6 p.m. the Friday before Father’s Day and ending at 6 p.m. on Father’s Day. The father will be responsible for picking up and returning the children if it is not his normal weekend to have them.
  • Mother’s Day – The mother has possession of the children for Mother’s Day weekend just as the father does for Father’s Day.

For an easy-to-read calendar version of the Standard Possession Order, click here.

Q. Does the visitation schedule change if I live more than 100 miles away from my children?

A. Yes. If you live more than 100 miles apart, you can select the weekend visitation above or you can select any one weekend a month of your choice provided you give the custodial parent at least 14 days notice of that weekend. You may give this notice by phone. You must also give WRITTEN notice to the custodial parent that you intend to select the one weekend per month within 90 days from the time you live more than 100 miles apart.

You also will get the children each spring break instead of alternating years.

For the summer, provided you give written notice to the custodial parent by April 1 of each year, you may select 42 consecutive days for your summer visitation. This too may be split up into two groups of at least seven days each. If you do not give written notice by April 1, then you will have the children beginning at 6 p.m. on June 15 and ending on July 27 each year.

The custodial parent may designate one weekend during your summer for possession of the children, provided they give you written notice of the weekend by April 15. The custodial parent may also designate 21 days where the non-custodial parent will not have possession of the children provided: (a) they give written notice of these dates by April 15; (b) the dates do not interfere with the summer visitation already selected by the non-custodial parent; and (c) it does not interfere with Father’s Day weekend.