Children are at the center of many family law disputes. While parents have every right to pursue parenting time, an abusive or unstable history may provide reason to have these rights limited.Hopkins Centrich Winkelman & Drucker, PLLC, provides clients with effective legal representation by assertively pursuing our client’s interests. This is obviously an emotional time for parents, but our attorneys seek to provide rational advice outside the fog of emotion.
How Does Texas Law Define“Parenting Time”?
Texas law states that the court shall allocate parenting time, or visitation, according to the child’s best interests. It is presumed both parents are fit and the court shall not place any restrictions on parenting time unless it finds that a parent’s exercise of parenting time would seriously endanger the child’s physical, mental, moral, or emotional health. In determining the child’s best interests, the court considers a variety of relevant factors, including, but not limited to, the following:
- The wishes of each parent;
- The wishes of the child, taking into account the child’s maturity and ability to express reasoned and independent preferences;
- The amount of time each parent spent performing caretaking functions in the last 24 months;
- Any prior agreement or course of conduct between the parents relating to caretaking functions;
- The interaction and interrelationship of the child with his/her parents and siblings;
- The child’s adjustment to home, school, and community;
- The mental and physical health of all individuals involved;
- The child’s needs;
- The distance between the parents’ residences;
- Whether a restriction is appropriate;
- Physical violence or threat of physical violence by the parent directed against the child or other member of the household;
- The willingness of each parent to place the needs of the child above his/her own;
- The willingness of each parent to facilitate and encourage a close and continuing relationship between the other parent and the child;
- The occurrence of abuse;
- Whether one parent is a convicted sex offender;
- Any other factors the court finds relevant.
In very general terms, the standard protective order provides that a visiting parent who lives within 100 miles of the child shall have visitation with a child on first, third and fifth weekends (counting by Fridays), Thursday evenings, every other Thanksgiving, half of every Christmas break, every other Spring Break and 30 days in the summer.
The factors that the court will consider in determining if the visiting parent should have an expanded visitation is how far the visiting parent lives from the child's school, the visiting parent's work schedule, how important consistency and continuity is for the child, and how well or how poorly the parents get along at exchanges of the children.
Parents can always come up with any other visitation schedule that they can agree to and that fits their individual circumstances. There are also people who choose to share the children's time equally. Some people do a week-on, week-off schedule, some split the weeks in half, doing a 4/3, 3/4 schedule, etc. Generally, a court will not make an order for a 50/50 time split if it is not agreed by the parties, but will approve an agreement if the parties sign off on it.
While visitation is defined as “in-person” time, qualifying individuals may request electronic communication either through telephone, electronic mail, instant messages, video conference, or additional technology.
Elaine Berkeley has over 15 years’ experience dealing with complicated family law issues. If you are in the Woodlands, Conroe or the Houston area and need advice regarding visitation, contact Hopkins Centrich to speak personally with a family law attorney.