This page details the laws governing child visitation under the Texas courts. Please call and speak with Kevin Sralla, a San Antonio family lawyer, we can also set up a free consultation to discuss your situation in person.
Child visitation rights are typically awarded to a non-custodial parent following a separation or divorce. The non-custodial parent has visitation rights in both a joint-managing conservatorship setting and a sole-managing conservatorship setting. Visitation can always occur by agreement of the parties, meaning that the parties can share possession and access to the children in any fashion they desire as long as they can agree on terms. However, where parties cannot agree on visitation terms, they must rely on the default rules set forth in the Final Decree of Divorce or other custody order. Most of the time, the default rules are set forth in a Standard Possession Order, as codified in the Texas Family Code.
In any custody order in Texas, one parent is appointed the “Primary Managing Conservator.” This is the person who has the right to determine where the children live. The other parent is the “non-custodial parent.” The law sets forth specific visitation rights in a Standard Possession Order that are presumed to be in the best interests of the children. The Standard Possession Order generally provides that the non-primary parent may possess the children on every first, third and fifth weekend of each month, every Wednesday for two hours, every summer for 30 days (if the parents live within 100 miles of each other) or every summer for 42 days (if the parents live more than 100 miles apart), every other Christmas and Thanksgiving holiday, every other spring break, the child’s birthday for two hours, and every Mother’s Day or Father’s Day weekend.
It is always in parents’ best interest to cooperate on visitation issues. Judges do not like to see parents who cannot get along, who seem unreasonable and who continuously place the children in the middle of custody disputes. The parent who behaves in this way runs a significant risk of losing possession and/or access rights because of the judge’s perception that such parent is not acting responsibly or reasonably with respect to the children.
There is no question that children reap the benefits when parents behave responsibly and work together, keeping the children’s best interests in mind. I always instruct my clients to support the other parent’s decisions, while providing clear guidelines and expectations for the children when they are in the clients’ possession. The most challenging part for a parent who wants to be cooperative is putting aside their personal feelings.
Nonetheless, there are always times when the other parent is behaving unreasonably or attempting to involve the child in a personal or relationship dispute between the two parties. In this situation, the parent must walk the fine line of protecting and asserting his/her rights to possess the children, while not stooping to the immature or petulant level of the other parent. This is a challenging balancing act that often requires guidance and counsel from an experienced attorney knowledgeable in the Family Code and who is able to accurately predict how a judge is going to react to actions taken by the parties in response to a visitation dispute.
In situations like these, a judge steps in to define the rights and responsibilities of each parent in accordance with what it deems to be in the best interests of the children. Sometimes, when parties cannot agree on terms the court will appoint a neutral attorney, called a guardian ad litem, to investigate the situation and report back to the judge. Similarly, in cases where custody is in dispute (i.e., which party should be primary and which should be the non-custodial parent), most judges will appoint a social worker to conduct a social study and render a written report to the court with recommendations on which parent should have primary custody and the extent to which visitation should be awarded to the other parent. A social study is an in-depth examination of each party’s lifestyle, home environment and relationship with the children. It usually involves a series of interviews with the parties and children and home visits so the social worker can observe each parent’s interaction and relationship with the children.
Once established, child visitation rights can be changed for a variety of reasons, including: relocation of the custodial parent without a court order, a parent change in employment and/or danger posed to the children by a parent or someone living with the parent. The goal, in the court’s eyes, of determining child visitation rights is to allow each parent to develop and maintain a parental bond with the child, even though the relationship between the parents has failed or no longer exists.
It is imperative to choose a skilled attorney to help protect and/or implement visitation rights. At Sralla Law Offices, we are adept at counseling clients through tricky situations involving the misbehavior of the other spouse and the need to maintain the appearance of being reasonable before the court. Ultimately, we counsel our clients to always do what is in the best interest of the children involved and to “take the high road” whenever possible. At the same time, we understand that disputes over visitation can and often do become hotly contested. In these delicate situations, we have a proven record of achieving positive results for the client amid the tumultuous environment of custody and/or visitation battle. Contact Kevin “Buck” Sralla, an experienced family law attorney, today for a free consultation to protect your rights and the precious relationship you have with your children.
Kevin “Buck” Sralla
Welcome, I am Kevin “Buck” Sralla, an experienced family law attorney in San Antonio, TX. I am licensed to practice in Texas state courts and skilled at advocating for my clients’ rights whether the setting be in a courtroom before a judge or jury or an informal mediation or settlement negotiation process.