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Know the Laws: Texas

UPDATED July 20, 2016

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Custody is complicated and it is important to try to find a lawyer who has experience with custody and domestic violence laws to help you with your case.  Go to our TX Finding a Lawyer page for a listing of legal services organizations and Texas.

General info & definitions related to visitation

back to topWhat is “possession and access” (visitation)?

In Texas, visitation is called possession of and access to a child.   A parent can get possession and access unless the judge determines it is not in the best interests of the child and will endanger the physical or emotional well-being of the child.*1

During the time that a parent has possession of his/her child, s/he has:

  • the duty of care, control, protection, and reasonable discipline of the child;
  • the duty to support the child, including providing the child with clothing, food, shelter, and medical and dental care not involving an invasive procedure;
  • the right to consent for the child to medical and dental care not involving an invasive procedure; and
  • the right to direct the moral and religious training of the child.*2
A judge will create a visitation schedule, called a standard possession order, using certain guidelines.  A standard possession order is used for children 3 years of age or older.*3   For a child less than 3 years old, the judge will create a visitation schedule that s/he thinks is appropriate.*4  See What factors will a judge consider for a child who is less than 3 years old? for more information.

A possession order can be changed to meet the particular needs of the managing conservator(s), possessory conservator and the child(ren).*5

*1 Tex. Fam. Code § 153.191
*2 Tex. Fam. Code § 153.074
*3 Tex. Fam. Code § 153.251
*4 Tex. Fam. Code § 153.254
*5 Tex. Fam. Code § 153.253

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back to topWhat is a standard possession order?

A standard possession order contains a parent’s rights of possession of and access to his/her child.*  It is basically a visitation schedule.  In a standard possession order, the parents can either agree on a schedule or the judge will order a schedule s/he thinks is appropriate.*1 The schedule contains exact dates and times that a child will stay with each parent. The standard possession order is designed for a child over 3 years old.  Therefore, if the child is under 3 years of age, there may be a different order in effect until the child turns three.*2  See What factors will a judge consider for a child who is less than 3 years old? for more information.

The judge can modify (change) the standard possession order to accommodate the parties.  If the judge decides to modify (change) the standard possession order, s/he will consider several factors including the age, developmental status, circumstances, needs, the best interest of the child and the circumstances of the managing conservator and of the parent named as a possessory conservator.*3

* Tex. Fam. Code § 101.029
*1 Tex. Fam. Code § 153.311
*2 Tex. Fam. Code § 153.254
*3 Tex. Fam. Code § 153.256

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back to topShould I start a court case to ask for supervised visitation?

If you are not comfortable with the abuser being alone with your child, you might be thinking about asking the judge to order that visits with your child be supervised.  If you are already in court because the abuser filed for visitation or custody, you may not have much to lose by asking that the visits be supervised if you can present a valid reason for your request (although this may depend on your situation).

However, if there is no current court case, please get legal advice BEFORE you start a court case to ask for supervised visits.  We strongly recommend that you talk to an attorney who specializes in custody matters to find out what you would have to prove to get the visits supervised and how long supervised visits would last, based on the facts of your case.

In the majority of cases, supervised visits are only a temporary measure.  Although the exact visitation order will vary by state, county, or judge, the judge might order a professional to observe the other parent on a certain amount of visits or the visits might be supervised by a relative for a certain amount of time -- and if there are no obvious problems, the visits may likely become unsupervised.  Oftentimes, at the end of a case, the other parent ends up with more frequent and/ or longer visits than s/he had before you went into court or even some form of custody.

In some cases, to protect your child from immediate danger by the abuser, starting a case to ask for custody and supervised visits is appropriate. To find out what may be best in your situation, please go to TX Finding a Lawyer to seek out legal advice.

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WomensLaw.org thanks Tracy Grinstead-Everly, JD, Policy Manager at the Texas Council on Family Violence for her help in revising this information.

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