Monday, August 27, 2012

Can I Designate a Different Summer Vacation Schedule in Texas?

As noted in a separate blog entry, under the Texas Standard Possession Schedule, the parent with whom the child does not primarily reside (called a “possessory conservator”), can have the child for up to 30 days if the parents live less than 100 miles apart.  If the parents reside over 100 miles apart, the possessory conservator can possess the child for up to 42 days.

The Texas statutes set up a “default period” for summer possession.  However, Texas Standard Possession Schedule allows the possessory conservator to designate the specific days for summer possession, provided he or she does so in writing by April 1st of that calendar year.  These extended summer vacation visits must not be over more than two separate periods and must be at least seven days in length.

These extended periods of summer vacation should be discussed and coordinated with the other parent.  Under the Texas Standard Possession Schedule, the managing conservator (the parent with whom the child primarily resides) can designate one or two specific weekends to have possession of the child during the extended summer periods of possession designated by the possessory conservator (depending on how far apart the parents live).  This designation must be given in writing on or before April 15th of that calendar year, and cannot interfere with the father’s right to possession of a child on Father’s Day.

By:  Cynthia W. Veidt, attorney and Erin Zeiss.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

What Do Texas Courts Consider When Determining “Primary Custody”?

As noted in a previous blog, the term “primary custody” is misleading in Texas.  The closest standard in our state is to determine which parent has the exclusive right to designate the child’s primary residence, since parents are presumed to have joint/equal parental rights and the standard possession order gives each parent an almost equal amount of possession/custodial time. 

When determining whether a parent will be appointed as a joint managing conservator (“JMC”), Texas courts look to see if there has been a history of family violence by one parent toward other members of the household.  If the court finds one parent has committed family violence, or has a history or pattern of child abuse/neglect, physical or sexual abuse, or sexual assault, that parent may not be appointed as a JMC, and the court may also limit or restrict that parent’s periods of possession/custodial time.  See Tex. Family Code § 153.004. 

Other factors include:

- The parent’s ability to give first priority to the child’s welfare;
- The parent’s ability to reach shared decisions in the child’s best interest;
- The parent’s ability to encourage and accept a positive relationship between the child and the other parent;
- The parent’s role/participation in the child’s rearing;
 - Whether appointment of the parent as JMC will benefit the child’s physical, psychological and emotional needs and development; and
- Where the parents live in relation to one another.
See Tex. Family Code § 153.134.

If one parent has clearly been uninvolved in caring for the child’s basic needs and upbringing, has not been active in the child’s daily activities and schooling, disparages the other parent or actively discourages the child from a relationship with the other parent, or abuses alcohol or other substances (legal or illegal), has frequent emotional outbursts or a demonstrated lack of self-control, or otherwise shows an inability to exercise good parental judgment, the court is less likely to appoint that parent as a JMC, and will instead consider granting “primary custody” to the other parent.

Article by Cynthia W. Veidt, Attorney