When it comes to child custody, a standard custody agreement is a plan that contains details such as the basic rights of each parent and their minimum visitation time. Most commonly, one parent will have physical custody or possession, and the other will have visitation rights.
Child custody arrangements are extremely important, and as they are court orders, they must be followed to the letter by those named within. This means that it is crucial that you ensure your arrangement is fair and reasonable.
The best way to ensure this happens, is to seek skilled legal representation from a family lawyer. With their help, you can sit down and negotiate a fair arrangement with your spouse, one that is in the best interest of the child.
Here at The Love DuCote Law Firm LLC, our team of family lawyers has helped countless spouses through their divorce, reminding them of the importance of their children, and the importance of creating a child custody arrangement that will benefit them and reduce displacement in their lives as much as possible.
If you and your spouse are struggling to come to an agreement, we will utilize tools such as mediation and negotiation, and if that is not possible, we will fight on your behalf in court. Remember, all Texas family law Judges will always make decisions based on what they believe to be in the best interest of the child, and you will be legally bound to follow their plan, whether you like it or not.
What should be included in my standard custody agreement?
In a typical standard possession order or custody arrangement, there should be details on:
- All of the provisions regarding the legal and physical custody of your child
- The visitation schedule you will be following
- Rules for making changes to the custody plan if it becomes necessary in the future
- Rules for how the parents will come to agreements on the important decisions in a child’s life
How is Physical Custody Usually Split in a Standard Agreement?
By far the most common visitation schedule, is one parent will have physical custody, i.e, the child will live at their house. The other parent will have the child one night each week and every other weekend. There may also be provisions for the parent to see the child for several hours one additional evening of the week.
This schedule is the most common because it gives the child the minimum recommended time with the non-custodial parent in the fairest way, with the minimum displacement to their lives. Weekends are often busy times for families, and this means that alternating the weekends is much more straightforward than trying to split weekends up. It also allows parents to have better quality time with their kids when they are off work themselves.
With these agreements, there may be provisions for the parents to alternate who has the child on school holidays and during long summer breaks; the non-custodial parent should have several weeks of additional time with them. The child may also spend mothers day with their mother and fathers day with their father.
Is Standard Child Custody the Right Choice for my Child?
While the standard child custody schedule is the alternating weekend schedule, it might not be the best choice for every child in every circumstance. Often, the child may wish to spend more time with the non-custodial parents, and the alternating weekend schedule may not be enough time for them.
When crafting a visitation schedule, you should always consider your child’s needs and what is in their best interests. If they have an opinion, you may wish to listen to them. You and your spouse know your child better than anyone, and you should work together with them to create a schedule that you know is going to suit your children.
If you have a lot of conflict with your spouse, this should not stop you from working together on your agreement, and this is where a family law lawyer may be able to help.
What is a Possession Order
There are several types of possession orders in Texas.
These orders dictate when each parent, or even a nonparent, has the right to see the child:
- Standard Possession Order
- Modified Possession Orders
- Possession Orders for a Child Under Three
- Supervised Possession Orders
What is the Texas Standard Possession Order?
For any child who is aged three or older, Texas law automatically presumes that a standard possession order will be in the child’s best interests. Studies have shown that children have the best chance of development when they have access to both loving parents unless there is a reason not to allow this.
Under the standard possession order, each parent has the right to have possession of their child if both parents are in agreement.
Under the standard possession order (SPO), if both parents cannot agree, then the non-custodial parents, the parent without physical custody, has the right to possession of the child in line with the times provided under the Texas Family Code.
Under the Texas Family Code, when both parents live less than 100 miles apart, then the non-custodial parent has the right to possession of the child on:
- 1st, 3rd, and 5th weekends of every month
- Thursday evenings throughout the standard school year
- Alternating holidays with the child
- An extended period of at least 30 days during summer vacation
When the parents live more than 100 miles apart:
- A reduced weekend schedule of one weekend per month.
- No mid-week visits.
- Alternating holidays with the child.
- A period of no less than 42 days during summer break/spring break.
What is a Texas Modified Possession Order?
The second type of possession order is the modified possession order. If the custodial parent and noncustodial parent decide a standard possession order is not suitable, or your family law Judge decides that it is inappropriate for your family, they may create an order that has modified rules, such as the alternating weeks schedule, the split weeks schedule or day visits with no overnight stays.
If you believe a modified possession order is necessary, you should discuss it with your attorney as you may need to provide a strong, compelling case and evidence for it to be awarded.
What is the Standard Possession Order For Children Under Three in Texas?
Texas law has a different legal presumption when it comes to the standard possession order for children under the age of three years old.
When a child is under three years old, you and your spouse may still decide to agree to the standard possession order rules, but if your case is seen by a Judge, they may decide to create a modified possession order due to the young age of the child.
What is a Supervised Possession Order?
In certain situations where a Judge, or one parent is worried that there is a threat to their child’s life, a supervised possession order may be necessary. With a supervised possession order, it may be decided that one parent’s visitation with the child must be supervised at all times by either a family member or a third party.
Sometimes the Judge will order that a private agency must be used, and the visiting parents will have to pay for the cost of doing so.
If you have reason to believe that the other parent may pose a risk to your child’s health or safety, you must speak to a family law attorney. Together with their help, you can evidence your claims and create a compelling case to provide to the Judge. Family law courts will always listen to any case where a child may be in danger, but they will expect you to have solid grounds for appealing for supervised visitation.
Will a Family Law Judge Consider a History of Domestic Abuse or Violence in their Decisions?
All family law courts and Judges in the state of Texas must consider any evidence that is presented to them when it comes to a childs safety. This means they must consider any history of abuse or family violence in their decision.
If you have a history of abuse or violence, it is important that you work with an attorney who can help you document how you have changed and that your past is behind you. A history of violence does not have to prevent you from seeing your child or having unsupervised visitation as long as you can prove you are no longer a danger.
If you have suffered from a violent or abusive spouse, and they are still violent or abusive, you must speak to your lawyer. They will help you to protect yourself and your children from further abuse.
What Can Be Changed After a Divorce Decree Is Finalized?
Many of the orders that are finalized during the divorce can be modified at a later date, such as the child custody arrangement, the visitation schedule, and child support payments. If both parents agree that the modification is necessary, the Judge will usually allow it.
If one party is pursuing a modification and the other party disagrees, then it gets more complicated. Usually, there must be strong evidence that the change is necessary as the old order no longer works. A large change in circumstances is the most common reason for this.
When Can I Modify a Custody Order in Texas
As all family law courts in Texas must make their decisions based upon what is in the best interests of the children involved, the following circumstances may result in a modification:
- Either parent has gone through a change in circumstances
- The primary custodian has allowed someone else to be the primary custodian for at least 6 months
- The child has reached an age where they wish to express their own opinion (12 years old)
- One spouse poses a danger to the children
When is a Modification in The Best Interests of the Child?
The courts will always consider whether or not a modification is in the child’s best interest, and they will use a variety of factors when making their decision.
They may look at the ability of each parent to meet the child’s needs, financially and emotionally, as well as each parent’s relationship with the child. They could look at the stability of each parent’s lives, including their ability to hold down a job.
Most importantly, they will consider if there is a danger to the child’s well-being or health.
Texas Child Custody FAQ
The period of time that it will take for a Texas family law Judge to make custody decisions will vary from case to case. It will depend upon the complexity and the number of issues that require individual hearings. Often a decision can be made in several months, but it is not uncommon for it to take a lot longer than this, especially if the case involves a lot of conflict between the two spouses.
Under Texas law, the parent-child relationship grants a number of rights that are not available to grandparents. However, under certain circumstances where the court decides that it is within the child’s best interests, grandparents may be awarded visitation rights.
Grandparents are allowed visitation rights in Texas if it is determined to be in the best interests of the child by a court of law.
When parents live in different states, Texas courts handle child custody by utilizing the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA).
Call The Love DuCote Law Firm Today!
Going through a divorce when you have children can be a stressful affair. Both parents often want what is best for their children but disagree on what this looks like. This can lead to a lot of conflicts that may affect their children.
Here at The Love DuCote Law Firm LLC, we will utilize negotiation and mediation to help you and your spouse come to an amicable agreement that minimizes the need for court involvement.