Know the Laws: Texas
UPDATED October 16, 2012
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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 possessory conservator has the same rights and responsibilities as any other parent except s/he does not decide the primary (main) home of the child. The judge can limit these rights at his/her discretion.* One parent is usually made possessory conservator when the other parent is made the sole managing conservator.**
However, a judge will not make a parent possessory conservator if it is not in the best interest of the child and might harm the physical and emotional well-being of the child.**
To read about the rights and responsibilities of a possessory conservator see What is conservatorship (custody)? What types are there? and What is possession of and access to a child (visitation)?
* Tex. Fam. Code § 153.192
** Tex. Fam. Code §153.191
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
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.