THE TEXAS DIVORCE COURSE

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CHILD VISITATION IN THE TEXAS DIVORCE

    One of the thorniest issues that a divorcing couple has to deal with is what's going to happen to the kids.  Basically, that boils down to, "who's going to get custody and who's going to have visitation rights?"

    This is one of those issues that many men find truly infuriating because the woman nearly always gets custody of the kids.  There are many men out there who have been good husbands and good fathers and suddenly find their access to their children severely restricted when the wife files for divorce.  "Why," they ask, "am I being punished when I haven't done anything wrong?"  And it's a good question.

    In order to answer it, you have to look at the nature of two people separating.  You ARE going to be living in two separate residences.  You ARE going to be living two separate lives.  Now, at the beginning of the 20th century - when there was very little divorce occuring anyway - most people in this country were born in small, rural towns, married someone from the same town, and raised their kids in the same town.  If they separated the odds were that they'd only be living a few miles from each other after the separation.  In that situation there would be no problem with true joint custody.  The kids could spend one night with Mom and the next night with Dad with no real disruption to their lives.

    Unfortunately, when you try to transfer that scenario to modern life it frequently becomes a nightmare.  One parent or another may have to relocate hundreds or even thousands of miles away for employment purposes.  If the father is only fifty miles away it can turn into a situation where most of his visitation takes place in a car hauling the kids from one residence to the other and then back again.

    The solution that the court system came up with is the so-called, "standard visitation schedule."  One parent or another is designated as the, "managing conservator," meaning that they have full custody of the kids and manage their day to day lives.  The other parent is designated the, "possessory conservator," meaning that they possess the children during periods of visitation.  The divorce decree will stipulate exactly when the possessory conservator can have possession of the children and it usually looks something like this:
every other week end

every other major holiday

Father's Day

60 days in the summer

at all other times to which the parties may agree.

    That's not written in stone, of course, and you may want to tweak it to maximize the time with your kids.  For instance, if you were in the military and you KNEW you weren't going to be in the same town with your ex-wife you might want to give up the weekend visitation and ask for 90 days in the summer rather than sixty.  If you defintely knew that you WERE going to be in the same town, you might also want to include Wednesday nights so that you could have a mid-week check in with your kids.

    It should also be noted that many divorce decrees contain TWO visitation schedules, one dealing with visitation with the child up to the age of three and then another dealing with visitation after the child is three.  The early age schedule may severely limit the man's visitation with the child. This is based on the somewhat female chauvinist notion that men are blithering, beer-swilling idiots who can't possibly care for an infant.

    There is also an exciting new idea that state law makers recently incorporated into the Texas Family Code.  It's called , "virtual visitation," and is based on the fact that most households now have computers.  It allows the judge to order that a certain number of hours can be set aside each week for you to visit with your children on the computer.  Basically all that you need is a couple of webcams and skype.

    I've actually had conferences where both the husband and wife came in to file for an agreed divorce and both of them objected strongly to a visitation schedule.  "We still get along great.  Why should we have to follow a schedule?"  The answer is that you don't, as long as you continue to have a friendly relationship.  The schedule is there, though, IN CASE you don't get along in the future.  Sometimes people change.  Sometimes they remarry and the new wife or husband can't stand the ex-spouse.  If your relationship degenerates, you still have a written court order for access to your children.