Navigating a divorce is difficult in any circumstances, but especially so when there are children involved. Parents often get into emotional debates deciding what they believe is best for the children when it comes to custody and visitation schedules. When determining a visitation schedule following divorce, working with a lawyer is often necessary. Whether you hope to work together with your ex to determine a plan to propose to the court, or you are letting a judge decide what is in the best interest of the children based on evidence provided by both parties, an experienced family law attorney can help you navigate the process.
In Texas, visitation orders are also known as possession orders. These orders say when each parent has the right to time with a child. Texas recognizes several types of possession orders, including standard possession orders, supervised possession orders, modified possession orders, and possession orders for a child under three. In most cases, Texas law presumes the Standard Possession Order, which says parents may have custody of the child according to a mutually agreed-upon schedule, is in the best interest of the child, but this is not always the case.
Courts are most concerned with the best interests of the child or children regarding custody and visitation schedules. Texas courts consider a variety of factors when determining what possession order is best for children. A judge will consider all of the following when making a determination about visitation:
If neither parent demonstrates concerning factors, such as a history of abuse, Texas law believes maintaining a relationship with both parents is in the best interest of the child, so shared custody and visitation arrangements are often preferred by judges. This can be difficult in some situations, such as if parents live in two separate locations. In cases where a Standard Possession Order is not feasible, another type of possession order may be issued.
The Standard Possession Order works well in ideal cases where parents live within 100 miles of one another or can travel and spend longer periods of time with the child when they live over 100 miles apart. If parents (or the judge in a contested case) determine the Standard Possession Order will not work for your family, a modified possession order will likely be issued.
Modified possession orders are any possession orders that do not follow the Standard Possession Order, so they are more flexible and specific to the needs of the family. Some examples of modified orders include alternating weeks, no overnight visits, alternating seasons, or any situation the parents and court find appropriate. If a child is younger than three years old, the Standard Possession Order is not automatically considered in the child’s best interest. Judges consider a variety of factors when determining what is in the best interest of a young child and issue possession orders on a case-by-case basis.
Lastly, a Supervised Possession Order may be issued if a judge is concerned about the safety of a child when they are in the care of either parent. Their time will need to be supervised by a third party chosen by the judge – sometimes a family member, agency representative, or a neutral third party.
Self-representation is always an option, but it may not be the option that gets you the outcome you are hoping for when it comes to child custody cases. The help of an experienced family law attorney is recommended in possession cases, especially if you expect your case to be contested by your child’s other parent. These types of cases can be highly contentious and lead to emotional courtroom battles, which can threaten your character in front of a judge. In addition to helping you build a strong case, having representation from a family attorney is beneficial, as they will speak on your behalf in a levelheaded way when you may be inclined to respond emotionally to accusations from your ex.
A: A parent could lose their visitation rights if any of the following occur: child abuse, abandonment, child neglect, educational neglect, substance abuse, termination of parental rights, the conviction of a crime and jail time, violation of court orders, or attempting to alienate the child from the other parent.
A: If a parent states they do not want visitation rights, that will be considered by the judge issuing the possession order. While Texas considers time with both parents important, a parent who does not want contact with their child likely is not the healthiest person for a child to be with, and the judge will determine a modified support order that they believe to be in the best interest of the child.
A: There are circumstances where it is appropriate to change possession orders, but any changes must go through the court and be approved by a judge. An attorney at a family law firm can help you navigate this process.
The Law Firm of William A. Walsh is ready to support those going through a divorce in any aspect of the case. Child custody and visitation decisions are often some of the most difficult parts of a divorce, and our Granbury visitation lawyers are available to provide legal counsel and representation to ensure you and your children get what is fair. Contact us today to share your story and learn how we can help.