When parents cannot agree on a parenting plan, the court will hear evidence from both sides, and establish a parenting plan which establishes child custody, visitation and child support. Although there is a presumption that the Standard Possession Order (“SPO”) should be in place for all children 3 years of age or older, there are exceptions schedule depending on the unique circumstances of each case.
Some exceptions are:
- Children under the age of three.
- When there have been any issues of child abuse or domestic violence.
- When one parent has a drug or alcohol abuse issue.
Non-Standard Possession Schedule for Children Under Three
Texas no longer follows the “Tender Years Doctrine” for children under the age of three, which used to assume that a young child should live with their mother. One parent will be awarded the right to designate the primary residence of the child and the other parent will have reasonable visitation with the child. Frequent, shorter visits are considered best for a young child to be able to bond with both parents. This schedule can then be stepped up over time toward the goal of SPO at age 3.
Non-Standard Possession Schedule When One Parent has Issues with Domestic Violence or Child Abuse
The Texas Family Code provides that the Judge must consider issues of family violence or child abuse when determining custody and possession. The court will evaluate each case individually and if it determines it would be in the best interest of the children to have visitation with that parent, the Judge can order a parenting plan that fits the situation and protects the child. This may range from supervised visits to termination of parental rights.
Non-Standard Possession Schedule When One Parent Has a Drug or Alcohol Abuse Problem
The court will evaluate each case carefully. If one parent abuses drugs or alcohol, the Judge might order only supervised visits with the child. Additionally, the court can order the addicted parent to go to recovery, submit to random drug and alcohol testing or have other restrictions or conditions placed on their visits with their child.
If the addicted parent shows progress, the court may expand the parent’s possession schedule and at some point, allow unsupervised visitation. Generally, the longer the parent can show progress in staying sober/clean, the more likely the Judge will allow some unsupervised access.
When Parents Agree on Their Own Possession Schedule
Parents are encouraged to put their own parenting plan together including a mutually acceptable possession schedule. The court will review the plan and unless it is not in the best interest of the child, the court will approve the plan.
For More Information About Divorce Contact an Experienced Dallas Family Law Attorney.
For more information about conservatorship and possession schedules, and to schedule a free initial consultation with a Dallas Family Law Attorney, contact Paula Lock Smyth Law Offices at 214-420-1800.