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;
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.
2016 Texas Holiday Visitation Schedule with your Children: Guidelines for Thanksgiving and Christmas
Now is the time to review your Holiday 2016 Schedule for visitation with your children during this wonderful time of year! We suggest you review the specific circumstances provisions of your order concerning visitation. Because many families have specific situations that occur during this special time, this visitation time is the most modified area in the Standard Possession Order. The Holiday schedule will always override the Thursday or Weekend schedules.
Here is a reminder of the current Texas Family Law Code’s Standard Possession Order for the Holidays.
Texas Family Law Code’s Standard Visitation Guidelines for Thanksgiving:
The possessory conservator or non-primary conservator shall have possession of the child in odd-numbered years, beginning at 6 p.m. on the day the child is dismissed from school before Thanksgiving and ending at 6 p.m. on the following Sunday, and the managing conservator shall have possession for the same period in even-numbered years;
Texas Family Law Code’s Standard Visitation Guidelines for Christmas Break:
The possessory conservator or non-primary conservator shall have possession of the child in even-numbered years beginning at 6 p.m. on the day the child is dismissed from school for the Christmas school vacation and ending at noon on December 28, and the managing conservator shall have possession for the same period in odd-numbered years;
The possessory conservator or non-primary conservator shall have possession of the child in odd-numbered years beginning at noon on December 28 and ending at 6 p.m. on the day before school resumes after that vacation, and the managing conservator shall have possession for the same period in even-numbered years;
The Holiday Season should be a happy time for but for families split by divorce, the emotional issues from the result of the break-up on the affected family can cause the joy of the season to be overshadowed by unhappiness and despair!
Unfortunately, many parents, wait too long to confirm visitation plans for the upcoming holiday season, resulting in an unfortunate and a very unhappy family situation. If you cannot reach an agreement regarding visitation or you believe you may be deprived of holiday visitation by the other parent, now is the time to contact an attorney.
Children need to have structure in their Holiday Visitation schedule to ensure that they will be able to see both parents and share the joy of the season with their entire family. The children are often the ones who suffer when the Holiday Visitation arrangement goes awry.
The best gift of the holiday a child can experience is an early proactive arrangement of all holiday plans so everyone knows dates and times for visitation with both Mom and Dad. This Holiday Season vow to keep your child out of the middle of any family conflict and start to develop new holiday traditions with your child and family. Many parents have new relationships/marriages and other children in the family group. The new holiday traditions should include everyone and be a bonding experience for years to come.
Tips on Dealing with Holiday Visitation Issues
- Make sure your children have positive holiday memories. Shield them from conflicts between warring ex-spouses.
- Plan ahead now on scheduling the upcoming holiday visitations. The longer the wait, the more stress involved!
- If there is a deviation in the holiday schedule this year, make sure it is, in advance, in writing. Make sure the document shows what times are being exchanged and both parents sign it for future confirmation.
- Stay flexible and compromise: If you have to work, consider having the kids spend more time with the other parent so they have time with friends. This is a time for new family traditions and changes from old habits. Put aside your differences with the other parent and make the children’s time happy with good memories.
- If age appropriate, ask your children what is important to them during the holidays. There may be a special place or event that is very important to them; try to accommodate this.
- Enjoy the Holidays with your children. This is a special time for wonderful bonding and beautiful memories. Do not undermine their holiday by hateful confrontations and fighting.
- If you anticipate a problem could arise regarding holiday visitation schedules, don’t delay! Consult a legal expert in time to get the conflict resolved before the holidays commence!
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Many professions create impositions on conservators making a standard possession order inapplicable and unworkable. The Court may deviate from a standard possession order if the order is inappropriate or unworkable in reference to the schedules of both the conservators and the child. Unique professions and irregular school schedules for children allow the Court to have flexibility to deviate from a standard possession order that is in the Best Interest of the Child. There are multiple ways in which the Court may depart from a standard possession order to fulfill the needs of all parties involved with the custody of the child.
First, the Family Code § 153.254 states that the Court will be allowed deference to modify the standard possession order if work schedules of either conservators or the school schedule of the child is irregular. The Court must attempt to narrowly tailor the modifications to keep the new possession order as similar to the standard possession order as possible. This instance most commonly occurs when the Managing Conservator and the Possessory Conservator cannot reach an agreement and one of the two Conservators has a unique profession such as a firefighter, police officer, or airline pilot. The working hours of these jobs allow the Court to modify the standard possession order even if both of the parties do not comply with the changes. The modifications must be made only if it is in the Best Interest of the Child.
Secondly, the standard possession order may always be modified if it is by the mutual agreement of both the Managing Conservator and Possessory Conservator. Family Code § 153.007 is the Agreed Parenting Plan Statute and allows for both parties to agree on a standard possession order for the child. This statute was passed to promote amicability in settlement for child custody issues and to give flexibility to the parents if they are willing to agree on custody terms. The Agreed Parenting Plan must be in the Best Interest of the Child for the Court to approve. If the Court grants the Agreed Parenting Plan then the Managing or Possessory Conservator will have a remedy as a matter of law for any violation of the agreement committed by either party.
Finally, both Conservators may enter into a Mediated Settlement Agreement under Family Code § 153.0071. A Mediated Settlement Agreement is the only time in which the Court will NOT look at the Best Interest of the Child when granting the custody agreement.
The Mediated Settlement Agreement § 153.0071 must be:
- In bold, underlined, and capital letters that the agreement is NOT REVOCABLE
- Signed by Both Parties to the agreement
- Signed by the lawyers (if represented) of each party
The Mediated Settlement Agreement is binding and not revocable so if the Conservators wish to go this route they must understand that what is in the agreement will be held as binding. This method can be used to modify or change a standard possession order and the Court will not look at the Best Interest of the Child regarding the agreement, unless there exists a credible threat of domestic violence.
These are the methods in which a unique possession order may be obtained to accommodate irregular schedules or working hours of both the conservators. Any possession order must be correctly drafted and all future contingencies must be accounted for. An experienced lawyer must be contacted to safeguard an individual’s custody rights of their children and to make sure that a fair custody arrangement is obtained.
Texas family law states that a court may modify a child custody order if the change is in the best interest of the child and one of the following applies:
1. The circumstances of the child or parent have materially or substantially changed since the date of the original child custody order or order to be modified.
2. The child is at least 12 years of age and will tell the court in private chambers with the judge that he/she would like a change.
3. The custodial parent has voluntarily given the child’s care and custody to another person for at least 6 months.
Material or Substantial Change
What could be acceptable as a change for the Texas family courts? Some examples could be a parent’s remarriage, a medical condition the affects a parent’s ability take care of the child, a parent’s criminal acts or convictions, a parent’s change in residence that makes visitation a hardship for the other parent, family violence, drug or alcohol related issues, absence of supervision, and other material changes concerning adequate care and supervision of the child.
Child Wants Change
The child must be at least 12years of age and maybe interviewed in the judge’s chambers. The court will consider the child’s desire but only make a change if it is in the child’s best interest.
This happens when the custodial parent has voluntarily given up custody of the child to another person for at least six months. This does not apply to a period of military deployment or duty.
After finding one of the three prerequisites, the court must still consider whether the change will be in the child’s best interest. The court will consider factors affecting the child’s physical, emotional, mental, education, social, moral or disciplinary welfare and development. The factors considered for this evaluation are:
1. Child’s emotional and physical needs.
2. Parenting ability of the conservators or potential conservators
3. Plans and outside resources available to persons seeking the modification
4. Value to the child of having a relationship with both parents
5. Visitation schedule that requires excessive traveling or prevents the child from engaging in school or social activities
6. Stability of the person’s home seeking the modification
7. The child’s desires
8. Child’s need for stability and need to limit additional litigation in child custody cases.
Modification within one year of prior court order
A parent who files a motion to modify a child custody order within one year after a prior order was entered must also submit an affidavit to the court. The affidavit must contain, along with supporting facts, at least one of the following allegations:
1. The child’s present environment may be endanger the child’s physical health or significantly impair the child’s emotional development.
2. The person who has the exclusive right to designate the child’s primacy residence is the person seeking or consenting to the modification and the modification is in the child’s best interest.
3. The person who has the exclusive right to designate the child’s primary residence has voluntarily relinquished the primacy care and possession of the child for at least six months and the modification is in the child’
The possession order for both mother and father in any divorce must be in the Best Interest of the child and the Court has specific guidelines it must follow if both parents refuse to agree to custody arrangements. The Managing Conservator has primary custody of the child and the Possessory Conservator has visitation but is not the primary custodian of the child. The guidelines set forth by the Court regarding custody for parents living 100 miles or less of each other and parents that reside over 100 miles from each other are listed in the Family Code § 153.312 and § 153.313.
Family Code § 153.312 Standard Possession Order, regarding parents who reside 100 miles or less of each other, states the Possessory Conservator will have the following rights:
- Have custody of the child throughout the beginning of the year at 6 p.m. on the first, third, and fifth Friday of each month and ending at 6 p.m. on the following Sunday.
- On Thursdays of each week during the regular school term beginning at 6 p.m. and ending at 8 p.m. unless the Court finds this is not in the best interest of the child.
- Custody of the Child for 30 consecutive days during the summer but the Possessory Conservator will be required to give written notice to the Managing Conservator by April 1st of each year specifying the extended period of possession for the summer. If Possessory Conservator does not give written notice on April 1st, then the Possessory Conservator shall have access to the child from 6 p.m. July 1st to 6 p.m. July 31st of each year.
Family Code § 153.313 Standard Possession Order, regarding parents who reside over 100 miles from each other, states the Possessory Conservator will have the following rights:
- Have custody of child throughout the beginning of the year at 6 p.m. on Friday of the first, third, and fifth weekend of each month and ending at 6 p.m. that Sunday. The Possessory Conservator may also elect an alternate weekend if he/she gives a 14-day notice either written or telephonic to the Managing Conservator.
- The visitations on Thursdays nights are not mandated under this section due to the distance between the two parents.
- Custody of Child for 42 consecutive days during the summer but the Possessory Conservator will be required to give written notice to the Managing Conservator by April 1st of each year specifying the extended period of possession for the summer. If the written notice is not given then the Possessory Conservator shall have access to the child from 6 p.m. on June 15th to 6 p.m. July 27th.
The Court shall follow these guidelines unless it is NOT in the Best Interest of the child. These guidelines are needed because of the contention between both parents and the common inability to find a middle ground when it comes to custody of a child. The Court may deviate from these standard Guidelines but only if a parent can prove by clear and convincing evidence that it is in the Best Interest of the Child. If these guidelines are unworkable because of the child’s schedule then the Court will make exceptions but attempt to keep the custody arrangements as close to the guidelines as possible. Custody issues can be vexing and straining on both parents. To ensure you receive a fair outcome to see your child, it is wise to seek an experienced attorney to ensure that the sacred right to see your child is not infringed.