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					When a Texas family court divides parental rights and access to children in a divorce or suit
affecting the parent-child relationship (SAPCR) it will assign rights over the children to the
parents as conservators. This includes paternity suits and suits for child support between
unmarried parents. In most cases the court will order one parent to be the primary managing
conservator who provides a permanent, primary residence for the children. The other parent will
be assigned visitation rights as either a joint managing conservator or possessory conservator.
(For more on these terms access the child custody/conservatorship page.)

Visitation rights are defined in the possession order as part of a parenting plan ordered by the
court. The Texas Family Code establishes a standard possession schedule that defines a basic
visitation schedule that provides reasonable access to the child for both parents. However, the
court is not required to follow the standard possession schedule if it is in the best interests of the
child to adopt a different schedule. Often parents will agree to a different schedule that is more
convenient to them and less disruptive to the lives of the children. Family courts will usually
adopt the agreed schedule because the family courts prefer parents work together on behalf of
their children rather than forcing parents into a rigid and generic schedule.

However, based upon the best interest of the child a court can adopt a schedule different from the
standard possession schedule. The court may agree to provide more time to the parent without
primary possession than the standard schedule permits, even over the objection of the primary
managing conservator. The court can also order less visitation time if it is in the best interests of
the child. If necessary, the court can also limit visitation to supervised visitation with limited
access periods.

Standard Possession Order

In most cases the court will order the standard possession schedule apply to the parent with
visitation rights. When the parents live less than 100 miles apart the schedule provides for
frequent transfers of possession between parents. This schedule gives the non-primary parent
possession of the child Thursday evenings and the first, third and fifth weekends or one selected
weekend during the school year. The parent will also possess the child for thirty days during the
summer. Spring break and holidays are divided up as well. If the parents live more than 100
miles apart the schedule omits Thursdays, adds an additional twelve days during the summer and
is more rigid with holiday scheduling. The parent with primary possession can voluntarily allow
the other parent more time with the child but cannot refuse to allow the other parent access
during the time periods specified in the order.

Visitation and Child Support

Child support is generally ordered at the same time a family court establishes visitation or
conservatorship orders, whether that occurs during a divorce, a paternity suit, or a separate suit
affecting the parent-child relationship (SAPCR). However, payment of child support is not tied
to visitation rights. Even if the obligated parent fails to pay child support, he or she keeps the
same visitation rights. The custodial parent cannot deny visitation or keep the other parent from
contacting the children because child support is not paid.

Enforcement of Visitation Rights
A parent with visitation rights cannot be forced to visit their children. If you are a primary
managing conservator for your children and the other parent is not visiting the children it may be
best to seek modification of the schedule from the court to prevent you from being accused to
denying the other parent his or her visitation time, which could result in the family court
penalizing you for denying the court-ordered visitation schedule.

On the other hand, if you are the parent with visitation rights and the primary managing
conservator is denying you your visitation rights or making it difficult for you to contact your
children then the court can assist you in enforcing the order. The court can hold the other parent
in contempt of court and penalize him or her. The court can fine the other parent, place
additional requirements on the possession order to make it easier to enforce, or even restrain the
rights of the other parent and give you more access and control over your children.

				
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