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?”. Here is a general breakdown of Texas 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.
Two New Family Case laws have been passed by the Texas legislature and signed by Governor Abbott, effective 9/1/2019:
HB553 Relating to notice summer weekend possession of a child under a standard possession order in a suit affecting the parent-child relationship.
SECTION 1. Section 153.312, Family Code, is amended by adding subsection (c) to read as follows:
(c) Notwithstanding Section 153.316, after receiving notice from the managing conservator under Subsection (b)(3) of this section designating the summer weekend during which the managing conservator is to have possession of the child, the possessory conservator, not later than the 15th day before Friday that begins that designated weekend, must give the managing conservator written notice of the location at which the managing conservator is to pick up and return the child.
SECTION 2. Section 153.312 (c), Family Code, as added by this Act, applies only to a court order providing for possession of or access to a child rendered on or after the effective date of this Act. A court order rendered before the effective date on this Act is governed by the law in effect on the date the order was rendered, and the former law is continued in effect for that purpose.
SECTION 3. This Act takes effect September 1, 2019
HB House Bill 558: Relating to the court ordered support for a child with disability:
BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF TEXAS:
SECTION 1. Section 154.302, Family Code, is amended by adding Subsection (c) to read as follows:
(c) notwithstanding Subsection (b), a court that orders support under this section for an adult child with a disability may designate a special needs trust and provide that the support may be paid directly to the trust for the benefit of the adult child. The court shall order that support payable to a special needs trust under this subsection be paid directly to the trust and may not order that the support be paid to the state disbursement unit. This subsection does not apply in a Title IV-D case.
SECTION 2. The change in law made by this Act constitutes a material and substantial change of circumstance under Section 156.401, Family Code, sufficient to warrant modification of a court order or a portion of a decree that provides support for a child rendered before the effective date of this Act.
Section 3. This Act takes effect on September 1, 2019
More new Texas Legislature Family Laws to come!
A temporary restraining order, commonly known as a “TRO” is used in family law to place injunctions without a full hearing on one or both parties. These injunctions prohibit specific actions that could endanger or prove damaging to the property in a divorce or the children of a divorce. You should have an idea on what the process entails.
A TRO is governed by Texas Rules of Civil Procedure Rule 680 and Texas Family Code § 150.001. If your spouse wishes to file a TRO that immediately excludes you from possession of or access to your children, a notice of this hearing must be given to you prior to the court date. The only exception to this is an Ex-Parte meeting with the judge, which means that only your spouse or her attorney will be present at the preliminary hearing. The judge may order a TRO Ex-Parte only if the TRO clearly demonstrates from specific facts shown by affidavit or by a verified complaint that immediate and irreparable injury, loss, or damage will result to the applicant or children before notice can be served and an actual hearing.
If you are on the receiving end of TRO and it prohibits you from access to your children, there are some things to keep in mind.
First: a TRO has a time limit, which is 14 days. After 14 days the TRO may be extended by a judge only once for an additional 14 days. Thus at most this TRO may only last 28 days’ absent agreement to an additional extension. A Judge does have the discretion to extend the TRO more than once if it is uncontested (you do nothing or do not appear).
Second: A TRO is NOT a Protective Order. This means that the police cannot kick you out of your house or forcibly arrest you for violating a TRO, absent any related criminal conduct. There are consequences for violating the TRO but not criminal consequence. You may be found in contempt of court by the Judge who ordered the TRO and forced to pay fines or be held to more severe sanctions. Violations will not be good for your case if you intentionally violate.
Third: A TRO must have a signed and notarized Affidavit or a verified pleading attached to the motion. If the opposing counsel did not follow these procedures the order may upon motion to dissolve be found void due to violation of the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure.
Fourth: You cannot practically appeal a TRO because it may only last for at most 28 days, if contested. Once you are served with the Ex-Parte TRO, you may request a motion to modify or dissolve the TRO after giving your spouse 48-hour notice and seek attorney fees if the filing was false or frivolous.
TRO’s are civil injunctions that are usually given without notice only if immediate and irreparable injury, loss, or damage will happen. The proof rules are more relaxed in Family Law Cases. Specific TRO procedures can differ in all counties and in different courts so make sure the check online the rules of each specific jurisdiction.
TRO’s only last 14 days and cannot be enforced by police officers, absent related criminal activity. Do not be distressed if you are served a TRO one day while you are battling your spouse for child custody or property. Take a deep breath call your attorney and set a hearing to modify, vacate or dissolve the TRO.
Many counties have standing orders that issue and are effective as to both parties upon the filing of a Family Law Proceeding. Read such mandatory orders before you file your case.
Divorces with children are painful and emotional under the best of circumstances, but a divorce with a “Special Needs Child” is usually a very complex and mentally stressful situation for all family members involved.
The main goal in a “Special Needs” divorce is that all decisions affecting a child with disabilities must be in the “Best Interest of the Child.”
What is the “Best Interest of the “Special Needs Child”? Often this is the very reason that the parents are divorcing. The parents cannot agree on the existence of a disability or the best approach needed for care and support for their special needs child. Many times a medical/neutral professional will need to be involved to help the parents transition the new “after” divorce life of the child and parents.
When working with parents of a “Special Needs Child”, our attorneys focus on the most critical issues impacting the child and the family unit.
Some of these important issues are:
- Keeping the relationships between the family members agreeable in making the necessary decisions concerning visitation and transitions between both parents’ homes. You child needs contact with both parents unless there is an abuse or addiction issue or the other parent’s home is an unsafe environment for the “Special Needs” Child.
- Agreed upon health and medical care issues including special therapies to address the child’s needs. Let the child know that both parents are in agreement on the care for the child.
- Special social and recreational opportunities and appropriate educational programs are available for the child and her/his disability and should be agreed upon by both parents, if possible.
- Coordinate structured and regular visitation dates with same place drop off points. Give your child a calendar with visitation dates and let her/him be prepared to visit the other parent.
- Helping the parent to find a support group of family, friends, counselors and neighbors to help your family with your “Special Needs” Child. This help may come in many forms, mental and physical support, financial planning or just a good hug to say “you are ok”.
What is very important in a “Special Needs” Divorce is to realize what is “normal” in most divorces may not be the norm here. There are many important situations that will have to be resolved before the divorce can be finalized. The divorced parents of the “Special Needs” Child will continue to have to work together for what is best for their child.
Other serious considerations to settle:
- The transitions after a divorce on living arrangements and visitations for the child. It will be difficult to use a standard visitation schedule and a special parenting plan will have to be agreed upon to meet all of the child’s needs.
- The divorce decree will have to be custom designed to make sure the needs of the child will be met for the child’s entire life. The final divorce decree may have to be modified for the child’s benefit.
- Be knowledgeable of the financial aspect of your “Special Needs” Child. What type of care will be needed on a daily basis and will one parent have to give up all monetary benefits from employment outside of the home to take care of the child.
- List all expenses of raising this child: medical costs, food for special nutritional diets, special medical equipment needed for use of child, special schooling and transportation needs. This is very important to make sure the needs of the child will be met.
- Spousal Maintenance/Alimony: this amount must be worked out to ensure the caregiving parent will be able to afford all need of the child and their household. Many times this parent will not be able to work out of the home because of the constant care for the child. This will usually continue for the entire life of the child, so the divorce decree will have to reflect this continued support and cost of living changes.
When choosing a qualified lawyer for your “Special Needs” Divorce, it is important that the lawyer is familiar with what is involved with this type of divorce and understands the importance of tailoring a custom decree that will fit the best interest of the child and family situation for the duration of the child’s existence. It won’t be easy, but if the parents will work together, it can be achievable!
Are you now going through or commencing a “High Conflict” Divorce with children where one Alienating Parent is encouraging or programming the child to reject the other parent without legitimate cause or justification. An alienating parent makes a child choose sides to bolster the alienators own parental identity and to undermine the target parent through denigration and interference with the child’s other parent relationship.
Parental Alienation is more common than thought in divorce situations and many alienation situations continue throughout the entire relationship with the target parent and the affected child.
A report from Fidler and Bala (2010) reported increased incidences and judicial findings in parental alienation and estimated signs of parental alienation in 11-15% of divorces with children. Psychiatrist, Dr. William Bernet, Professor at Vanderbilt University and advocate of parental alienation (Sept. 2013) “Almost every mental health professional who works with children of divorced parents acknowledges the PA (parental alienation) affects thousands of families and causes enormous pain and hardship”
What are the warning signs of “Parental Alienation Syndrome”? Beware when a child starts displaying accelerated signs of hatred and anger rejecting any relationship with the target parent. This is especially transparent when a normal relationship existed before the deviant behavior manifests.
Are you having these types of problems with your children? What are the basic symptoms of Parental Alienation(PA)? There are many versions but in our law practice, these are the most visible:
- Under the idea of just being honest, the alienating parent tells the child “the entire family situation” through their opinionated eyes causing the child to think less of the target parent. Placing singular blame for who caused the breakup of the family?
- Alienating Parent refuses to allow the target parent access to school records/activities, medical/doctor records/appointments, extracurricular activities, or anything that would be a shared part of the child/parent life together.
- An Alienating Parent makes demands on the target parent that are contrary to court orders. Allows the child to make choices about parental visits with the target parent contra to existing court orders causing the child to resent the target parent when the changes request cannot or should not happen.
- Alienated parent may schedule the child in too many activities to assure no time is left for the target parent to visit with the child. Both parents need to be flexible with visitation to respond to the child’s need to have a relationship with both parents.
- A parent listens in on the child’s conversation with the target parent or does not allow the child to talk with the target parent at the designed call time.
- Refuses to allow children to takes their possessions to the target parent residence.
- Alienated parent blames the target parent for financial problems, having a boy/girlfriend, or causing changes in the family lifestyle. Forcing adult issues on a minor to gain advantage.
- When the child shows constant anger towards the target parent that accelerates to the point where the child avoids being with the target parent. No justified or demonstrative reason is given or exists for the anger and the child will not discuss the issue.
- The alienating parent will use the child to spy and gather information against the target parent. This can cause the child to demean and fear the target parent while scaring the child’s self-image.
- Alienating parent asks the child about the other parent’s personal life causing the child extreme stress/tension. A child not alienated wants to loyal to both parents.
- Alienating parents have secret codes, signals, and words that reinforce very destructive on-going alienation.
In today’s world Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS) is now taken very serious in family law courts. Please review the symptoms of parental alienation and see if there are common elements in your relationship with your child to determine if parental alienation may be a factor.
If so, take action to help alleviate this this situation with your child. Contact a medical professional who can help address this form of brainwashing. The alienating parent always feels like they are helping the child, but in reality, by pushing the child into their way of thinking about the target parent, they are pushing the child into a life of low self- esteem, depression, lack of trust, and self- hate. Many times the child will turn on the alienating parent when the real family picture comes out or as they grow and mature.
Nothing is ever gained by demeaning actions by one family member on all other members of the family unit. Many times it may also be necessary to contact a legal profession who is knowledgeable in Parental Alienation situations to legally intercede and help correct family issues before the child and parent regress to a non- existent relationship with each other.
Getting Even by using a child is never fair play. The child has two parents and should be able to have a loving relationship with both.