Shared Parenting With Texas Child Possession Orders

If only divorced parents could mutually agree on meaningful possession schedules while co-parenting their kids! But since many cannot or will not, the Texas Courts generally use a One-Size-Fits-All Standard Possession order for all children over three years of age.  The Texas Legislature over time has expanded the schedule to make access a little more flexible. Does this always squarely meet or suit the needs of a child and her/his relationship with both parents?

The Section 153.001 of the Texas Family Code is the State’s policy on possession schedules and its formation:

  1. Assure that children will have frequent and continuing contact with parents who have shown the ability to act in the best interests of their child;

  2. Provide a safe, stable, and nonviolent environment for the child;

  3. Encourage parents to share in the rights and duties of raising their child after the parents have separated or dissolved the marriage.

The Texas Family Code, section 153.002 also states that “the best interest of the child shall always be the primary consideration of the court in determining the issues of conservatorship, possession of, and access of the child”. Because of this the Texas Courts are given wide range in determining a child’s best interest in possession schedules.

What about fair and equal Parent Possession Schedules? This is easier desired than accomplished! In E. Mavis Hetherington’s book, For Better or for Worse, Three types of co-parenting relationships are identified:

  1. Conflicted: Parents have frequent conflict, communicate badly, and have difficulty disengaging emotionally from the marriage (20-25%)

  2. Parallel: Parents who emotionally disengage from each other, with little communication and who usually do not coordinate child-related issues between themselves although conflict is minimal. (Over 50%)

  3. Cooperative: Parents who work together to activitely plan their children’s lives and support each other. They work toward conflict free possession schedules in a nurturing parenting situation. (25%-30%)

Despite many separation and divorce related conflicts among parents, the main beneficial recipients of shared parenting are the children. When both parents are positively engaged in the parent-child relationship, probabilities are much higher for positive adjustment, better academic achievement and positive mental development of a child.

In Johnston & Campbell’s book, Impasses of Divorce, their findings support that the majority of parents substantially reduce their pre martial conflict within 2-3 years after divorce. Regrettably, 8%-20% of parents remain in a state of chronic high conflict!

How can Parents promote or enhance shared parenting in possession schedules?

Many parents will usually find a way or the mechanism to eventually work together for the benefit of the child, no matter how contentious the divorce. Even if shared parenting is not possible, parallel co-parenting reducing conflict may be acceptable. But if the parental conflict is high, try to use and enforce a possession schedule that limits parent contact during possession exchanges of the child and accordingly reduce conflict opportunity.

Parents: Leave your conflicts at home. You are divorced!  Concentrate on what is best for your child.  You are the lifetime primary example for your child on how families communicate.  Be mature and responsible and show your child that no matter what has occurred in the past, and regardless of fault, your joint goal is an emotionally healthy child over the long haul.

 

Supervised Visitation Orders – How Texas Fathers can Return to a Standard Possession Order

I Have Been Ordered, Right or Wrong, Supervised Visitation with My Child –

How Do I Return to a Standard Possession Order?

In a perfect world, parents going through the divorce process work together for the best interest of their child(ren) and are granted possession of the child(ren) approximately fifty (+ or -) percent of the time.  However, issues such as severe parental alienation, drug addiction, mental or physical abuse, neglect, and severe mental illness may force a parent to petition the courts to order limited or supervised visitation.  On some occasions, a parent is regrettably ordered into supervised visitation due to false, inaccurate or misleading information.  Regardless of the circumstances, court ordered supervised visitation is costly, may substantially limit the amount of time a parent is allowed to spend with their child, and can create a difficult and costly transition into a standard possession order.

If the court has ordered supervised visitation seek proper counsel from a qualified attorney as soon as possible.  If a case, rightly or wrongly, has been established for supervised visitation by the evidence or circumstances or court order, you will need to build a case for reinstatement of standard or standard expanded possession as soon as possible.

During a supervised visit it is imperative that you keep any comments on the case to yourself. Avoid giving any opinions on the existing judgment or the supervised visitation order.  Within reason, limit your conversation to what is strictly necessary for the child to have a safe, happy and healthy visit. Be polite and courteous with the monitor even if you develop strong negative feelings regarding him or her.  Continue to enforce the importance of wanting and seeing your child and spending quality time with your child as much as possible.  Never, under any circumstances speak negatively about the other parent to or in the presence of the child or the monitor.  Never, use vulgar or abusive language toward or in the presence of the child or the monitor.  The visitation monitor may be an important asset at future hearings regarding a change from supervised visitation to a standard or expanded possession order.

Make every scheduled visit without fail.  If unable to make a scheduled visit, contact the monitor as soon in advance as possible with an appropriate explanation and request an alternative date.  Bring family members whenever possible and clear it with the visitation monitor prior to their attendance.  Bring cards and gifts, not only from you but from family members.  If visits are going well request off-site visits at a nearby restaurant or park.  Though visits may be costly, the more frequently you are observed in a loving relationship with your child the better the chance of supervised visitation being suspended or terminated all together.

Involve a psychiatrist or qualified counselor in your visitation schedule if at all possible.  Such professionals are key as you begin to build your case for standard possession since they are able to make suggestions to the Court as to how visits are progressing and the manner in which standard possession can be accomplished.

If you have been ordered to have drug or alcohol testing performed, take each test as scheduled and make certain you are free of drugs and alcohol.  A positive drug or alcohol test may place you back at square one and undermine your progress.

If a social study is ordered, dispose of any prescription drugs not needed or which are out of date and put away any alcohol in your home.  Make certain your home is clean and orderly when the evaluation is performed.  In such cases, a qualified professional will come to your home and evaluate the environment as it pertains to the best interest of the child.  If you have been ordered into supervised visitation because of drugs or alcohol it is imperative that these items not be sitting around the home when a social worker is performing his/her evaluation to avoid negative results or an  invalid conclusion.

Keep your child support current at all times! If the supervised visitation is placing a financial strain on your ability to pay child support, have an attorney address modifying your child support obligation in a Motion to Modify.  It is counterproductive to request unsupervised visitation if you are not current in your financial responsibility toward your child.

Some very important tips a non-custodial parent should follow on a supervised visit:

  1. Follow the schedule of your visits to the letter.  Never cancel except for dire emergencies!

  2. Always arrive on time.

  3. Focus totally on your children.  Don’t ask about the custodial parent or exchange information or be judgmental in your comments. This is your time with your children.

  4. Have a game plan on what you will do when talking and spending time with your children. Stay open to suggestion from your children on what they would like to do with you so everyone enjoys the visit.

  5. Talk with your children about what you are doing in your life. Ask about their activities and school, but don’t press for information. Let them know that you are interested in what they care about.

  6. Always keep your word. Don’t make promises that you can’t keep!

  7. Avoid talking about the custodial parent at all times, the divorce, and any court actions.  Keep all conversations light and positive.  This is your time for your children.  Use it to reconnect and enjoy each other.

  8. Do not criticize the custodial parent or make negative comments about the supervised visitation. This is all the time you have with the children.  Love, embrace and enjoy them every moment.

  9. You may not like it, but follow the rules set forth for the supervised visitation.  Respect the process and this may help to encourage the court to change your status to unsupervised visitation.

Supervised Child Visitation for Texas Fathers

What is Supervised Visitation? Supervised visitation takes place between the non-custodial parent and her/his child (ren) in the presence of a third party or family agency who oversees the visit to monitor and ensure the child’s physical and emotional safety.  When supervision is ordered, possession and visitation are supervised by a neutral third party or family agency usually with the capacity to enforce effective measures that are normally ordered and enforced by the courts.

What is the purpose of Supervised Visitations? A supervised visit is for the benefit of the child to have safe contact with the non-custodial parent without having to participate in the parents’ mutual conflicts or other potentially dangerous circumstances.

The following is a potential list of acts and circumstances that usually occur before the custodial parent will request, and the court may order, supervised visitation between the child and the non-custodial parent:

  • Violence or physical endangerment – A noncustodial parent may be denied visitation rights if the parent has abused the child or threatened physical violence.

  • Emotional harm – Where sufficient proof is offered of potential emotional harm or where standard visitation has detrimentally affected a child’s emotional or physical welfare.

  • Child’s l wishes – A court may consider the child’s wishes as to visitation.  The weight given to a child’s preference is dependent on the child’s age, emotional stability, maturity and motives.

  • Abduction – There must be a showing that there is a strong imminent probability of abduction to limit visitation on this basis.

  • Substance abuse – A parent who abuses drugs or alcohol may be ordered to supervise visitation restrictions if the conduct endangers the child or if the parent uses abusive language and/or mistreats the child.

  • Mental illness –Mental incapacity may be a reason for supervised visitation only if it is determined by the court that there is a reasonable potential for harm to the child due to such mental illness.

  • Sexual behavior – Courts rarely deny visitation solely on the basis of a non-marital heterosexual or same-sex relationship.  Courts will, however, cancel overnight visitation by a child with a parent because of the parent’s cohabitation on a showing of an adverse and material negative impact on the child.

  • Incarceration – Visitations for the incarcerated may be suspended only on a showing that such visits are detrimental to the child.

What are the options for Supervised Visitations?

  1. Presence of a “neutral” third party: examples would be grandparent or other family member, friends of the family, close neighbors, and other child care providers.

  2. Presence of the custodial parent: This option is sometimes used when the child is very young. If this option is used the parents must work very hard to not engage in conflict affecting the child.

  3. Presence at a neutral location and monitored by professionals. These sites are staffed by professional and volunteers are trained for supervised visits. The expense these supervised visits can be very costly and may create a deterrent to access and possession by the non-custodial parent. Such agencies may also provide reports and recommendation to the court based on the success or failure of the supervised visits.  These recommendations assist the courts in making informed decisions regarding supervision and whether continued supervision is actually associated and necessary or in the best interest of the child(ren).