Saturday, February 7, 2009

Standard Visitation in Texas Divorce and Family Law Cases.

As codified in the Texas Family Code, the Texas Legislature has set out what is essentially the "recommended" visitation schedule for parents (and other conservators) in a Divorce or other family law cases (such as a Modification case, Paternity Case, or other Suit Affecting the Parent Child Relationship "SAP-CR" matter). The "Standard" Visitation Schedule is presumed to be in the best interests of the children for all children who are three (3) years of age and older. In setting specific visitation schedules, it is the policy of the State of Texas to: (1) assure that children will have frequent and continuing contact with parents who have shown the ability to act in the best interest of the child; (2) provide a safe, stable, and nonviolent environment for the child; and (3) encourage parents to share in the rights and duties of raising their child after the parents have separated or divorced. Tex. Fam. Code § 153.001.

It is important to note that the Standard Visitation Schedule is what is ordered when the parents cannot "mutually" agree to work out the schedule in advance. In other words, when the parents / conservators are unable to work out an agreement, Standard Visitation is what is ordered. Standard Visitation varies depending upon how far the children live from the parent who is exercising the visitation. The dividing line is 100 miles. If you have specific questions about the visitation schedule, you should look at the exact provisions that have been ordered in your case, because they might be different from the schedule as set forth below. However, current orders for Standard Visitation generally provide as follows:

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Parents or conservators who live 100 miles (or less) from the children:

Weekend Visits – On the first, third and fifth weekends of each month from either when school lets out or 6:00 p.m. on Friday to either when school begins on Monday morning or 6:00 p.m. on Sunday, at the election of the visiting parent or conservator.

Weekday Visits – On Thursday from either 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. or on Thursday from the time school lets out to Friday morning when school begins.

Christmas Vacation – In even-numbered years from 6:00 p.m. on the day school is recessed for the holiday to 12:00 noon on December 28. In odd-numbered years from 12:00 noon on December 28 to 6:00 p.m. on the day prior to the day school resumes.

Thanksgiving – In odd-numbered years from 6:00 p.m. on the day when school lets out to 6:00 p.m. on the Sunday after Thanksgiving. (Even-numbered years go to the conservator or parent who has the right to designate the primary residence of the child).

Spring Break – In even-numbered years from 6:00 p.m. on the day when school lets out to 6:00 p.m. on the Sunday before school begins. (odd-numbered years go to the conservator or parent who has the right to designate the primary residence of the child).

Each Child’s Birthday – On the child’s birthday from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.

Father’s or Mother’s Day – On Father’s or Mother’s day from 6:00 p.m. on the Friday prior to Father’s Day or Mother’s Day (as applicable) to 6:00 p.m. on such day.

Extended Summer Visitation – If written notice is given by April 1 – possession of the child for a total of thirty (30) days, provided that such visit must end at least seven (7) days prior to the end of summer vacation. If without written notice by April 1, possession from 6:00 p.m. July 1 to 6:00 p.m. on July 31. It should be noted that the other parent can designate one (1) weekend for possession during the summer by giving notice of the date by April 15 or upon 14 days written notice.

Parents or conservators who live greater than 100 miles from the children:
Weekend Visits – Either as provided above, or by designating one weekend per month upon 7 day’s notice (either by written or telephone notice).

Christmas Vacation – In even-numbered years from 6:00 p.m. on the day school is recessed for the holiday to 12:00 noon on December 28. In odd-numbered years from 12:00 noon on December 28 to 6:00 p.m. on the day prior to the day school resumes.

Thanksgiving – In odd-numbered years from 6:00 p.m. on the day when school lets out to 6:00 p.m. on the Sunday after Thanksgiving. (Even-numbered years go to the conservator or parent who has the right to designate the primary residence of the child).

Spring Break – Every year from 6:00 p.m. on the day when school lets out to 6:00 p.m. on the Sunday before school begins.

Each Child’s Birthday – On the child’s birthday from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.

Father’s or Mother’s Day – On Father’s or Mother’s day from 6:00 p.m. on the Friday prior to Father’s Day or Mother’s Day (as applicable) to 6:00 p.m. on such day.

Extended Summer Visitation – If written notice is given by April 1 – possession of the child for a total of thirty (42) days, provided that such visit must end at least seven (7) days prior to the end of summer vacation. If without written notice by April 1, possession from 6:00 p.m. June 15 to 6:00 p.m. on July 27. It should be noted that the other parent can designate either one (1) weekend for possession during the summer if the visit is thirty (30) days or less, or two (2) weekends if the visit is more than thirty (30) days by giving notice of the date by April 15.

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It should be noted that under Texas Family Code § 153.315, if a weekend period of possession coincides with a school holiday during the school year (or a federal, state, or local holiday during the summer months in which school is not in session), the weekend possession ends at 6:00 p.m. on the Monday holiday or school holiday or (if applicable) will begin at 6:00 p.m. Thursday for a Friday holiday or school holiday, as applicable.

The parent or conservator may also elect (in the order at the time the Order is signed by the Judge) to have to have their periods of possession so-extended by Holiday begin at the time the child is dismissed from school.

If you have specific questions about how your Order or Divorce Decree works in any given situation, you should contact the attorney that represented you or an experienced family law attorney.