With respect to children and visitation in divorce, the norm in Texas is to name the parents “Joint Managing Conservators” with one of the conservators having the right to designate the primary residence of the children (with or without geographic restriction. Being a Joint Managing Conservator means both parents have equal rights with respect to the children. It does not mean that both parents have equal time of possession.
The conservator with the right to designate the primary residence is the parent with whom the children live (often referred to as the “primary parent”). The other conservator (often referred to as the “non-primary parent”) receives “possession and access” rights. Possession equates to visitation. Access equates to contact with the children in-between periods of visitation, such as the right to have contact with the children by phone, Skype, FaceTime, text, email, or similar electronic means. For the rest of this blog, we’ll focus on the non-primary parent’s visitation rights.
The Family Code presumes that the “Standard Possession Order, or SPO” is in the best interest of the children. For the non-primary parent, the major features of the SPO include the following:
- Visitation rights on the 1st, 3rd, and 5th weekend of each month from 6:00 p.m. Friday evening to 6:00 p.m. Sunday evening;
- Alternating visitation at Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Spring Break;
- A short period of time on the child’s birthday (with the right to also have the birthday child’s minor siblings), if the child is not already in that parent’s possession;
- Mom always gets Mother’ Day weekend and Dad always gets Father’s Day weekend; and,
- Thirty (30) days extended summer visitation that can be taken all at once, or in no more than two periods with no period less than 7 days.
Sometimes, the SPO doesn’t permit the non-primary parent to maximize his or her visitation rights due to unique circumstances, such as an unusual or irregular work schedule. All hope is not lost. Family Code Section 153.253 gives the Court the authority to tailor the features of a custom possession schedule if the non-primary parent’s work schedule or other special circumstances make the SPO unworkable.
There is no one solution. The solution a Court approves will depend on the specific facts of each case. Speak with a qualified family law attorney for more information about accommodating unusual work schedules or other special circumstances a non-primary parent faces.
Author Jim Cramp is a retired active duty colonel and the founder and principal attorney at the Cramp Law Firm, PLLC. The firm provides a spectrum of family law-related services to clients in the greater San Antonio region, across the United States and throughout the world. The firm specializes in Federal Civil Service and Military Divorce matters. The firms also provides Wills and Estates and Probate services.