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San Antonio Visitation Attorneys
Protecting You & Your Child During Visitation Disputes
In Texas, visitation (called “possession” in the Texas Family Code) dictates how much time a parent or other caregiver can spend with a child.
For parents, dealing with possession disputes can be anxiety-inducing. No parent wants to receive a judgment from a court stating they need to spend less time with their child than they believe they deserve. At The Law Office of Derek S. Ritchie, PLLC, our San Antonio possession attorneys can help you find the best path forward in your visitation case.
Understanding Possession Orders in Texas
In Texas, there are four types of possession orders:
- Standardized possession order;
- Modified possession orders;
- Possession orders for a child under 3;
- Supervised visitation orders.
Understanding these types of visitation orders can help you navigate your possession case more easily.
Standard Possession Orders
During visitation cases, courts often operate under the assumption that the noncustodial parent (whichever parent houses the less or spends a minority of time with them) will utilize a standard possession order.
Under a standard possession arrangement, assuming the parents live less than 100 miles apart, the noncustodial parent has the right to possession:
- On the first, third, and fifth weekend of each month;
- On Thursday evenings during the school year;
- On alternating holidays as the parents see fit;
- Over at least 30 days during summer break.
What a noncustodial parent does with those possession rights can differ. They may choose to house their child when they have possession or simply visit their child at the custodial parent’s residence.
If the parents live more than 100 miles apart, the noncustodial parent can spend the same or a smaller number of weekends per month with their child and forego the mid-week visit in exchange for more days (42) with their child over summer break.
The noncustodial parent has the aforementioned right to possession regardless of whether the other custodial parent agrees to it. If the parents agree, the noncustodial parent may also receive more or less possession rights, bringing us to the next type of order.
Modified Possession Order
If a custodial and noncustodial parent agree that a standard possession order doesn’t suit them, they can change the terms of the order. This makes it a modified order.
Some common plans parents make using modified orders include:
- Having the child spend alternating weeks with each parent;
- Having the child split weeks between the parents (spending two or three days per week with each parent in an alternating pattern) and then alternating weekends;
- Having the noncustodial parent visit during the day but be unable to take the child overnight;
- Giving the noncustodial parent managing conservator rights, so they can care for a child’s estate.
Modified possession orders are a great way for parents in unique circumstances – such as one parent needing to travel consistently for work or being unable to house a child – to share possession rights effectively.
Possession Orders for Children Under Three
Children younger than three years old may have certain needs (such as consistent access to the mother) that children older than three do not possess.
As a result, courts often ask parents to establish a unique possession schedule if they have a child under three. When that child turns three, the parents may choose to use a standard, modified, or supervised possession order.
How your possession order works if you have a child under age three largely depends on the circumstances of your case and any special needs your child possesses.
Supervised Possession Orders
Generally, courts assume that it’s beneficial for a child to spend time living with and around both parents. However, under certain circumstances, the court may decide one parent represents a danger to their child or is unfit to parent them.
Courts may consider a parent unfit if they:
- Have a record of domestic violence or abuse;
- Have a record of child abuse or neglect;
- Have a substance abuse problem;
- Don’t have a safe living space for their child;
- Facilitate an unsafe environment (such as having an abusive partner);
- Are not physically or mentally healthy enough to adequately care for their child;
- Fail to meet the criteria for custodial rights in some other way.
If a court finds a parent unfit, they may give that parent supervised visitation rights. The details of a supervised possession order can differ on a case-by-case basis, but generally, the unfit parent will only be able to see their child under the eye of a third party such as the other parent or a professional from a child visitation agency.