When the parents of a minor child do not live together for one reason or another, it becomes necessary to establish who has custody of the child and how visitation with the child will work. In the State of Texas, the terms “custody” and “visitation,” however, are not used. Instead, the terms “conservatorship” and “possession and access” are used in place of the terms custody and visitation. If you are in a position where possession and access of your minor child is being decided, or will become an issue in the near future, you should learn as much as possible about how possession and access works and how it is decided. To help you get started, a Frisco child custody attorney offers some basic information about possession and access in the Lone Star State.
From a legal standpoint, possession and access of a minor child most commonly becomes an issue under two circumstances. The first is when a child is born out of wedlock, meaning to parents who are not married at the time of the child’s birth. In that case, the birth mother has full custody, or “sole conservatorship,” of the child unless the father establishes legal paternity of the child. Once the father establishes paternity of the child, the father becomes legally obligated to financially contribute to the child’s support. At the same time, the father legally gains the right to parenting time, or “possession and access,” with the child. The second scenario in which possession and access frequently becomes an issue is when the parents of a minor child are married but decide to end the marriage. A possession and access schedule will need to be worked out during the divorce process.
Conservatorship of a minor child must be determined before a possession and access schedule can be agreed upon by the parties or ordered by the judge. Conservatorship refers to the rights and duties of the parents. A sole conservator, for example, has the legal right to make major decisions involving the child, such as what religion the child will practice or what medical treatment the child will receive. Courts typically grant joint managing conservatorship unless there is a good reason not to do so. Possession and access, on the other hand, refers to the time the child actually lives with, or visits, a parent.
Ideally, all of the issues relating to the minor child in a divorce can be settled by the parties through negotiations without the need for a trial. When that happens, the parties reduce their agreements to writing in a Marital Settlement Agreement that is presented to the court for approval. The same basic concept applies in a paternity action. If the parties are unable to resolve all of the issues relating to conservatorship and/or possession and access to a minor child, a judge will ultimately have to decide the issues.
The State of Texas uses two statutory possession and access schedules – standard and extended standard. Absent extenuating circumstances, a typical possession and access schedule for the non-residential parent (the parent with whom the child does not live the majority of the time) includes spending several hours with the child one night during the week, alternating week-ends and holidays, and one month with the child during summer vacation. If the child is under the age of three, however, this schedule may be different. Likewise, if the parents live far apart (more than 100 miles), the schedule will likely be different. Keep in mind, however, that a judge must always follow the “best interest of the child” standard when establishing a possession and access schedule.
If you have additional questions or concerns about possession and access, conservatorship, or any other child custody related issues, contact an experienced Frisco child custody attorney at The Law Office of Jon R. Boyd to schedule your appointment today.