Out-of-State Custody & Visitation Schedules
The divorce is over, and life still moves forward. Following life’s path sometimes involves abrupt changes, including moving far away from the kids. A long-distance move changes everything, and it stirs up legal questions about custody and visitation.
In the state of Texas, long-distance parenting is applied to any situation involving a distance of 100 miles or more. With the Lone Star State’s size, that distance can be within the borders of Texas, or it could be an out-of-state move. Whether or not the move is in state or out of state makes no difference. If the divorce is finalized in Texas, then Texas visitation orders will apply. There will be no need to abide by new sets of laws or regulations when a parent needs to move out of state.
Parents are given the option to plan visitation however they see fit and submit those plans to the courts. Whenever possible, it is always encouraged to work things out with a former partner. Otherwise, the courts will have to make decisions for parents, which can lead to a lot of distress. The state of Texas uses a pretty rigid document when making a parenting plan.
Texas’s visitation rights are determined by the State’s SPO, the Standard Possession Order. The plan is put in place during the divorce, but it will need to be revised when a parent moves 100 miles away or more.
The SPO is worded to assume that there is a “Parent A” and a “Parent B.” Parent A is the parent who lives with the children full-time, and their home is considered the child’s primary residence. Whether it is Parent A or Parent B who makes a big move, the designations don’t change. Whomever the kids live with full time is Parent A.
Texas doesn’t offer a lot of wiggle room in the SPO. Certain specifics are embedded in the language without giving alternatives. Expect that there will be pre-determined times when one parent has possession of the children. The language of the SPO will use phrases such as, “. . . has the right to . . .” which offers the ability to negotiate with a former partner, but it also assumes that the other parent can force their rights if they choose.
The SPO allows two options for weekend visitation time. The first is pretty standard. Parent B, the non-custodial parent, has the right to take the kids on the first, third, and fifth (on a five-week month) weekend of the month.
With an “Alternative Weekend Possession” plan, Parent B may have one weekend per month. This option helps when the parents are very far apart. The non-custodial parent may choose the weekend, and they need to inform Parent A at least 14 days before the chosen weekend.
In a long-distance agreement, Parent B will have the children for every Spring Break.
Like Spring Break, Summer Break has the children spending time with the non-custodial parent. There are two options for this Summer Break schedule. Parent B may submit a written notice to Parent A for what days they want the children. The notice must be submitted by April 1st. In this scenario, Parent B may have the kids for a total of 42 days in two separate blocks of time. These blocks of time can start the day after school ends, and they must end seven days before school starts.
If Parent B does not submit a written notice, it is assumed that Parent B will take the kids for 42 consecutive days during the summer, from June 15 to July 27.
The SPO has a number of holidays that are “unaffected by distance.”
Every other year, from the beginning of the child’s winter break to noon on December 28, the kids alternate households. On even-numbered years, the kids stay with the non-custodial parent. Parent A gets the kids for odd-numbered years.
Parent A has Thanksgiving with the kids on even-numbered years, Parent B gets them on odd.
Texas doesn’t put much special significance on a child’s birthday. In a long-distance plan, Parent B may have the child on their birthday from 6pm to 8pm, and that’s it. This is another good reason to attempt an alternative plan with a former spouse, especially if birthdays are important in the home.
Father’s Day and Mother’s Day
Mothers and fathers may have their children on the weekend of their respective days, and the kids must be returned to Parent A on the evening of that Sunday or early on Monday.
Superior Right to Possession
Scheduling overlaps happen in a calendar year. A holiday sometimes falls on a birthday or a weekend, for example. In situations where overlap occurs, a parent will be given “superior right to possession.” The parent with this right may use it to overrule another parent when these conflicts occur.
Although making a big move after a divorce will be a big change, it needn’t come with undue stress. If the move is out of state, it won’t affect the fact that the rights of visitation are Texas-based. Try to come up with a beneficial plan with a former partner, or rely on the courts to work out a Standard Possession Order that is in the best interest of the child. Either way, the rules will be clear, and a parent will have firm, clear rights to see their children.
If you need a lawyer to protect your out-of-state visitation rights in a divorce, we are here to help. Consultations are free and there’s no risk involved, so call today at (713) 903-8112 or contact us online.