Summer Visitation Schedules for Texas Fathers

This question causes many divorced or single parents much stress concerning meaningful contact with their children. “What do I need to do to legally secure my specific summer visitation periods with my kids?” Since we have commenced the 2017 summer season here is a general breakdown today of the law on summer visitation:

Family code: 153.312: Notification of Summer Visitation: Parents who reside 100 miles or less apart.

A possessory conservator gives the managing conservator written notice by April 1 of each year specifying an extended period or periods of summer possession, the possessory conservator shall have possession of the child for 30 days beginning not earlier than the day after the child’s school is dismissed for the summer vacation and ending not later than seven days before school resumes at the end of the summer vacation, to be exercised in not more than two separate periods of at least seven consecutive days each, with each period of possession beginning and ending at 6 p.m. on each applicable day; or does not give the managing conservator written notice by April 1 of each year specifying an extended period or periods of summer possession, the possessory conservator shall have possession of the child for 30 consecutive days beginning at 6 p.m. on July 1 and ending at 6 p.m. on July 31;

If the managing conservator gives the possessory conservator written notice by April 15 of each year, the managing conservator shall have possession of the child on any one weekend beginning Friday at 6 p.m. and ending at 6 p.m. on the following Sunday during one period of possession by the possessory conservator under Subdivision (2), provided that the managing conservator picks up the child from the possessory conservator and returns the child to that same place;
and
If the managing conservator gives the possessory conservator written notice by April 15 of each year or gives the possessory conservator 14 days’ written notice on or after April 16 of each year, the managing conservator may designate one weekend beginning not earlier than the day after the child’s school is dismissed for the summer vacation and ending not later than seven days before school resumes at the end of the summer vacation, during which an otherwise scheduled weekend period of possession by the possessory conservator will not take place, provided that the weekend designated does not interfere with the possessory conservator’s period or periods of extended summer possession or with Father’s Day if the possessory conservator is the father of the child.

Divorce, paternity or other orders setting out access/possession rights should specifically set out this information. Such orders are usually custom and specific on times and dates for summer and other holiday visitations.

In today’s world, a statutory preset structured visitation schedule does not always work in a blended family environment. Many fathers are now either sole managing conservator or co-managing conservators with the mother. The current standard visitation schedule is used more as a basic presumed schedule to which extended time may be added for cause good for more equal shared time with the children.

With an enlightened public awareness and presumption under law that children need quality time with both parents, many parents are looking for modifications to child visitation orders that agrees with their lifestyles to share their children equally and fairly.

Beware of Trusts in High Asset Marriages!

Consider the legal consequences of Trusts regarding the characterization of marital property, especially Trusts created by separate property prior or after marriage.  A Trust can be a creative and useful tool depending on the perspective and actual need of the parties.  To a spouse owning substantial separate property, an irrevocable Trust may be a safe haven that will guard the separate property and potentially the income from the separate property against property divisions in a Divorce Court.  On the other hand, in some cases, a spouse that has no separate property may be defrauded by the other spouse.

The Texas Courts have indicated that separate Trusts created prior to marriage, that are irrevocable spendthrift Trusts are a valid means to shelter separate property of the marriage and the income from the trusts are not subject to division during the divorce proceedings.  The beneficiary of the separate Trust (the spouse with the separate trust or beneficiary of a separate trust) do not have a present possessory right to any asset within the corpus of the Trusts.  If the spouse is granted a present possessory right to any portion of the trust in the trusts, then the income from the Trusts may be divided in a Divorce Court as community property.

This is an area of concern to the other spouse. If you are married to an unsavory spouse, where separate property assets owned prior to the marriage are put into an irrevocable spendthrift trust, take measure to insure no money or other property acquired during the marriage is siphoned into those separate Trusts. One spouse may siphon community property throughout the marriage into separate Trusts in order to deplete the community estate. This constitutes fraud on the community estate and the innocent spouse may seek adequate compensation.

It is important to hire an experienced attorney that understand the intricacies of Trusts and the part Trusts can play in sheltering community funds from a spouse during the marriage. Many wealthy men or women may abuse the Trust formation to defraud their spouses from fair community property allocation.  Wealthy spouses may use irrevocable or discretionary Trusts created prior to the marriage for asset protection instead of using prenuptial agreements or post marriage property agreements. The case law is still not completely settled in Texas regarding irrevocable Trust as they pertain to divorce and it is important to hire an attorney that can help guide you through these complexities and insure you are not being defrauded or taken advantage of in a divorce proceeding.

Invalid Pre-Nuptial Agreement: Attacking Pre-Nuptial Agreements

Modern High Asset marriages commonly  involve Pre-Nuptial agreements to preserve and protect each spouses‘ property. If one spouse takes advantage of the other and the Pre-Nuptial is unconscionable, it may be attacked as invalid as a matter of law. There are a few considerations you should make sure of before determining if a Pre-Nuptial is valid:

  1. Did you sign the Pre-Nuptial voluntarily?

OR

  1. Were you given fair disclosure of the property or obligations of the other spouse?
  2. Did you waive the right of disclosure in writing?
  3. Did you have adequate knowledge of the property or financial obligations of the other spouse?

If you answered “NO” to either (1) or all of (2)-(4) then you may be in a position to contest the Pre-Nuptial agreement. It is difficult to show that a Pre-Nuptial agreement is unconscionable. The Courts have made it clear that “unfairness” which is short of unconscionability does not make a Pre-Nuptial unenforceable. Determining whether a Pre-Nuptial agreement is valid or not is in large measure a question for the judge and not for the jury. This means that a judge will make the determination if your spouse has forced you to sign a Pre-Nuptial in an unconscionable way.

For high asset divorces, Pre-Nuptial agreements are more common. If you are a spouse that was pushed into signing a Pre-Nuptial without fair disclosure or without adequate knowledge of the property or obligations enforced in the agreement you may have a claim. Depending on the circumstances, invalidating a Pre-Nuptial agreement may be time consuming and costly, so an experienced attorney must be consulted.

Assess your situation at the time you signed your Pre-Nuptial. Did your spouse muscle you into signing the Pre-Nuptial, thus possibly invalidating the Pre-Nuptial? Once you have answered these questions find an experienced attorney that is familiar with contesting or setting aside unconscionable or unenforceable Pre-Nuptial Agreements.

Julian Nacol, Attorney
Nacol Law Firm P.C.