Your parenting time schedule determines when your children are with you and when they are with their other parent, which makes it a direct reflection of your parental rights. Parenting time cases arise when parents divorce, but they also apply to parenting time modifications and parenting time concerns between parents who were never married.
Better understanding how parenting time works in the State of Texas can help you take the precautions necessary to better protect your rights as a parent. Reach out for the professional legal guidance experienced Killeen parenting time attorneys offer to protect your parental rights.
Child Custody in Texas
Child custody in Texas is grouped into both legal custody and physical custody – or parenting time.
Legal custody determines how you and your children’s other parent will address decision-making matters, such as those related to the following:
Childcare and education
Your children’s primary home
Legal custody can be sole or joint, but within that classification of joint legal custody, you have options for making decisions:
Reaching the decisions together
Reaching the decisions together but giving one parent the authority to break a tie if doing so becomes necessary
Dividing the decisions between you according to the category of decision that needs to be made
Parenting time, on the other hand, sets the parenting schedule that addresses your family’s needs. If you and your ex are able to devise a schedule between yourselves that each of you deems acceptable, you won’t need the court’s intervention on the issue. If not, however, you should expect the court to award you one of its set schedules.
Your parenting time schedule will guide you through some busy times ahead. You want to maximize your time with your children while keeping your household running as smoothly as possible, so make sure to give your parenting time schedule the attention it deserves upfront. This decision will save you time, frustration, and expense in the long run.
Keeping This Primary Parenting Decision between Yourselves
When it comes to hammering out divorce terms, there is perhaps nothing as personal to either of you as your parenting time schedule. As such, most couples prefer to keep the matter between themselves.
This preference doesn’t mean that you and your ex must magically agree on every point, which is generally a pipedream. However, you and your ex have considerable options when it comes to your negotiations:
Engaging in negotiations between yourselves – turning to the experienced legal guidance of your respective divorce attorneys as you proceed
Allowing your respective divorce attorneys to do the negotiating for you – moving the matter forward toward a resolution you’re both comfortable with
Proceeding to mediation
You have many options for coming to an agreement with your ex. However, if your children’s other parent is invested in making your parenting time case as contentious as possible, cutting your losses and going directly to court is likely your best option. Discuss your best course forward with your Killeen custody attorney.
If negotiations related to parenting time have broken down between you and your children’s other parent, it doesn’t necessarily mean that litigation is your only option. Mediation helps many couples find common ground. This is how it works:
You and your parenting time attorney – along with your ex and his or her legal representation – will meet with a professional mediator who serves as a neutral third party.
The mediator will go back and forth between you, helping you explore your best options and compromises that you may not have considered.
The mediator will also let you know how the court will likely rule in your case – given his or her vast experience in this arena.
If you do reach a mutually agreeable parenting time schedule and you both sign off on it, it becomes legally binding.
If you are not able to resolve the matter, the next step is likely court.
The Court and the Best Interests of Your Children
If you need the court to provide you with a parenting time schedule, it will base its decisions on the best interests of your shared children. The court makes these determinations by considering a set series of best interest factors, which includes all the following considerations:
Your and your ex’s scheduling preferences
Your children’s scheduling preferences – for those who are considered mature enough to voice a reasonable preference
The children’s current and evolving physical and emotional needs
Any special needs any of the children have
Each parent’s ability to successfully address each of the children’s needs
The stability of the home each parent is able to provide
How well the status quo serves the children, which refers to how well they’ve adapted to their current home, school, and community
Each parent’s commitment to supporting the other’s ongoing relationship with the children
Each parent’s commitment to successful co-parenting
Each parent’s overall health – both physical and mental
Each child’s overall health – both physical and mental
Each child’s age
Whether or not there are any concerns related to domestic violence, child neglect, or child abuse
Each parent’s level of involvement in raising the children to date
Any other factors that the court finds relevant to the case at hand
Texas courts take every parenting time case on an individualized basis, which means that your unique situation will be carefully considered in relation to a wide range of variables. Discuss your case with a skilled Killeen custody lawyer to see what variables may influence your case.
The Court’s Perspective
Texas courts make it their business to uphold parental rights within the context of the children’s best interests. To do so, they rule according to the following perspectives unless there is a compelling reason to go against them:
Maximizing the amount of time children spend with each parent is preferable.
Children are best served when they consistently spend time with each of their parents.
Parenting time should only be seriously restricted when protecting the children is the motivation.
While Texas courts have several standard parenting time schedules that they regularly employ, it’s important to note that these generally only apply to children over the age of three. For very young children, courts take a more delicate approach that addresses their tender needs.
Your Ex’s Perspective
If your ex is pushing for more parenting time in a bid to limit his or her child support obligation, it makes the path forward that much more difficult, but you shouldn’t let this tactic get the better of you.
To begin, Texas courts are not unaccustomed to efforts such as this, and they do not appreciate the sentiment. Ultimately, child support is based on a wide range of factors, and parenting time is just one of them. Once your ex recognizes the error of this strategy, there’s a good chance he or she will back off.
Basic Parenting Time Schedules in Texas
Texas basic parenting time schedules generally hinge on weekends, and weekends in this context are generally defined as from Friday to Monday. If the Friday falls on the last day of the month, it counts as the fifth weekend in the month rather than as the first weekend in the following month.
Parenting time schedules are also predicated on how far apart the parents live. Contact a Killeen custody lawyer for more information about parenting time schedules in Texas.
When Parents Live between 50 and 100 Miles Apart
When parents live from 50 to 100 miles apart from one another, the standard possession order generally applies, and it includes the following arrangements:
The parent who is not the primary custodial parent has the children the first, third, and fifth weekend of each month from 6 PM Friday to 6 PM Sunday.
The parent who is not the primary custodial parent has the children every Thursday evening from 6 to 8.
If the children have a school holiday on the Friday of a weekend visit, the visit instead begins on Thursday at 6 PM.
If the children have a school holiday on the Monday after a weekend visit, the visit instead ends on Monday at 6 PM.
The parent who is not the primary custodial parent has the children for 30 days during the summer, which runs from July 1 to July 31 unless he or she notifies the custodial parent about alternate days before April 1.
The custodial parent is afforded one weekend with the children during the noncustodial parent’s 30 days in the summer.
Parents Who Live Fewer than 50 Miles Apart
For those parents who live 50 miles apart or fewer, an extended standard possession order typically applies, and this includes everything in the standard order in addition to the following:
The midweek stay begins when the children get out of school on Thursday and ends when school starts on Friday.
The weekend stay begins when the children get out of school on Friday and ends when they go back to school on Monday morning.
Holiday possession schedules begin when school lets out and pick up again when school is back in session.
Ultimately, this schedule affords the noncustodial parent about 40 percent of the overall parenting time.
Parents Who Live More than 100 Miles Apart
For those parents who live more than 100 miles apart, the following adaptations are typically incorporated:
The parent who is not the primary custodial parent can choose one weekend of possession per month – rather than the first, third, and fifth weekends – if he or she provides the other parent with at least 14 days’ notice.
The parent who is not the primary custodial parent has the children for spring break each year.
The parent who is not the primary custodial parent is afforded 42 days of parenting time during summer break, which runs from June 15 to July 27 unless he or she schedules other plans prior to April 1.
In addition to the basic schedules outlined, it’s important to factor in holidays. Several prime examples from Texas’s standard parenting time schedule include:
The noncustodial parent is afforded Spring Break every even year – from the time the parent normally picks up the children on the day school ends to the time he or she normally drops them off on the day before school begins again.
The mother is awarded every Mother’s Day, and the father is awarded every Father’s Day – from 6 PM the Friday prior to 6 PM on that Sunday.
The noncustodial parent is awarded Thanksgiving every odd year from the normal time he or she picks up the children on the day school lets out for Thanksgiving to the normal time the children return home on the Sunday after Thanksgiving.
When considering your parenting time schedule, it’s important to consider contingencies. When it comes to parenting, expecting the unexpected is paramount, and when you keep this fact in sight as you sketch out your schedule, you can save yourself considerable grief down the road. Contingencies to consider include the following situations:
When circumstances are such that the children miss their scheduled time with one parent, how will the lost time be addressed?
If either parent is considering moving out of state – such as for a work transfer – how will you handle the issue?
How will you address unexpected days off school that aren’t addressed by the school schedule but arise from time to time? Sick days are a prime example.
How will you address concerns related to when a parent should be there for the kids but can’t be, such as if one of you becomes ill or is called away in an emergency?
While there is absolutely no way to address every conceivable contingency that life throws our way – the pandemic made this clear – having a basic plan can leave you better prepared to handle whatever ultimately does come your way.
An Experienced Killeen Parenting Time Attorney Is Here to Help
Brett Pritchard at The Law Office of Brett H. Pritchard in Killeen, Texas, is a focused parenting time attorney who recognizes how important your parenting time schedule is to you and your children and is committed to harnessing the full force of his keen legal insight in pursuit of your case’s advantageous resolution. Learn more by contacting us online or calling us at (254) 781-4222 today.