Not all that long ago custom dictated that when the parents of a minor child separated the child would remain with the mother absent a compelling reason for the father to retain primary custody of the child. Post-divorce, a father was typically entitled to see the children for one week-end a month, a week or two during the summer, and occasionally on major holidays. A father who chose to fight for more than the token visitation he was allotted usually had an uphill battle. Fortunately, times have changed considerably since then. Today, both society as a whole, and the law in particular, expects a father to take a much more active role in parenting his children post-divorce. If you are a father who recently made the decision to end your marriage, or who is contemplating same, you need to know what the law in the State of Texas says about a father’s visitation rights.
Like most states, Texas now uses the “best interest of the child” standard when making all decisions relating to custody, parenting time, child support, and any issues related to minor children of divorced or separated parents. As the term implies, the “best interest of the child” standard means that if a judge must make a decision about anything that will impact the child the judge must make that decision based on what is best for the child, not for the adults involved in the controversy.
The laws of the State of Texas go one step further though with regard to father’s rights. Section 153.001 of the Texas Family Code specifically states it is the policy of the State of Texas to “encourage parents to share in the rights and duties of raising their child after the parents have separated or dissolved their marriage.” In a nutshell this means that both parents should continue to be actively engaged in the child’s life and spend as much time with the child as possible.
In Texas, the law creates a presumption that either parent is qualified to have primary custody of a minor child. Section 153.003 of the Family Code makes this clear by saying “The court shall consider the qualifications of the parties without regard to their marital status or to the sex of the party or the child in determining:
which party to appoint as sole managing conservator;
whether to appoint a party as joint managing conservator; and
the terms and conditions of conservatorship and possession of and access to the child.
The law further presumes that parents will be “joint managing conservators” in Texas, meaning both parents will share in parental rights and duties. For parents who live within 100 miles of each other, a standard visitation schedule will have the non-custodial parent exercising visitation every other week-end, one night a week, alternating holidays, and 30 days or more over summer vocation. While this schedule can be modified, the important thing to understand is that a father does have presumptive rights to visitation with a child. Unless that presumption has been overcome in a court hearing there is no reason why a father should not have liberal visitation with his/her child.
Finally, contrary to popular belief, visitation is not related to the payment of child support. You should always pay court ordered support as ordered; however, being in arrears in support payments is not an acceptable ground on which to deny visitation.
If you are a father and have additional questions about your rights to visitation, contact the Fort Worth, Texas Law Office of Jon R. Boyd to schedule your appointment today.