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Legal Information: Texas


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November 5, 2020

What 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.11

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.12   For a child less than 3 years old, the judge will create a visitation schedule that s/he thinks is appropriate.13  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).14

1 Tex. Fam. Code § 153.191
11 Tex. Fam. Code § 153.074
12 Tex. Fam. Code § 153.251
13 Tex. Fam. Code § 153.254
14 Tex. Fam. Code § 153.253

What is a standard possession order?

A standard possession order is basically a visitation schedule that lays out a parent’s rights of possession of and access to his/her child.1 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.2 The schedule contains exact dates and times that a child will stay with each parent.

According to the law, if the possessory conservator lives 100 miles or less from the primary residence of the child, the possessory conservator will usually have the right to possession of the child during the following times unless the judge finds that it would not be in the best interest of the child:

  • on weekends throughout the year beginning at 6 p.m. on the first, third, and fifth Friday of each month and ending at 6 p.m. on the following Sunday; and
  • on Thursdays of each week during the regular school term beginning at 6 p.m. and ending at 8 p.m.3

There is also a typical standard possession order regarding vacation time. You can read the details about vacation time in section 153.312 of the law, subsection (b) on our Selected Texas Statutes page.

If the possessory conservator resides more than 100 miles from the residence of the child, the standard possession schedule for the possessory conservator would likely be different. You can read about the possible schedules in section 153.313 of the law on our Selected Texas Statutes page

The standard possession order is generally designed for a child over three years old. Therefore, if the child is under three years of age, there may be a different order in effect until the child turns three.4 See What factors will a judge consider for a child who is less than 3 years old? for more information.

The judge can change the standard possession order to accommodate the parties. If the judge decides to do this, 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.5

1 Tex. Fam. Code § 101.029
2 Tex. Fam. Code § 153.311
3 Tex. Fam. Code § 153.312(a)
4 Tex. Fam. Code § 153.254
5 Tex. Fam. Code § 153.256

Should 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.