While most orders in Texas incorporate the standard visitation schedule, this visitation schedule can take several forms. Furthermore, a different visitation schedule is often developed for children under three years of age. In extreme circumstances, a restrictive visitation schedule may be ordered, requiring supervised visits.
Visitation with the child for the non-custodial parent may take a number of forms depending on the agreement of the parties. However, when a Court orders visitation in the absence of an agreement by the parties, it tends to be standard visitation or in extreme circumstances more restrictive visitation with the child.
Standard visitation consists of the first, third, and fifth weekend of each month along with a Thursday dinner visit for two hours or a Thursday overnight visit each week during the school term. The Christmas break is divided in half between the parents, and rotates with Thanksgiving based on odd and even years. Therefore, the parent that does not spend Christmas day with the child will have spent Thanksgiving that year with the child. The order will also account for Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. The non-custodial parent also receives thirty days of visitation in the summer.
Furthermore, visitation orders allow the parties to deviate from the possession order by mutual agreement, meaning that you are not required to follow the terms of the order if you agree otherwise. This enables parents to trade weekends and otherwise cooperate in spending time with the child.
TexasLawHelp.org has a form for the standard possession order that demonstrates the options for expanded standard visitation compared to non-expanded standard visitation. In an expanded visitation schedule, the Thursday dinner visits are overnight visits and the weekend visits begin when the child is dismissed from school and end when school resumes on Monday. You will also notice that this form, like most orders, contains two visitation schedules, one for parents that reside within one hundred miles of each other and one for parents residing at a greater distance. When residing more than one hundred miles apart, it’s common for the non-custodial parent to be able to designate one weekend a month for visitation, receive visitation every spring break, and have the child for forty-two days in the summer.
For children under the age of three, the parties may agree or the Court may order that a different visitation schedule applies until the child’s third birthday. The simple principle here is that thirty days with only one parent is probably unsettling for the child. Therefore, in lieu of the summer visitation, there may be a schedule that provides more time during the week with the non-custodial parent to spend with the child.
More restrictive visitation schedules tend to take two forms, the stair-step visitation schedule and long-term restrictive visitation. Stair-step schedules begin with short visitations, maybe two hours and begin to expand under the terms of the order. For example, the non-custodial parent may exercise four two hour visits then four eight hour visits, and then four one-night overnight visits and so on until eventually exercising standard visitation or something similar. Stair-step orders usually go into place when one parent has had limited contact with the child and are intended to ease the child into the visitation schedule.
Long-term restrictive visitation schedules may be as limited as strictly supervised visits with the child in extreme circumstances where family violence has occurred or the non-custodial parent struggles with substance abuse issues. Courts are more likely to grant more restrictive visitation schedules in temporary orders than final orders in a case, but under extreme circumstances, the final order may contain provisions allowing only for supervised visitation.
Visitation may be supervised by the other parent, an agreed third party such as a relative or friend, or a professional supervision service such as SAFE or Guardians of Hope. Furthermore, exchanges may take place in public, outside a police station, or under the supervision of an organization such as SAFE.