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Parenting Time and Summer Vacations

divorced father & daughter on vacation

For school aged children in Texas, summer is the time they look forward to all year long. For many of their parents, the return of classes in the fall cannot come soon enough. The challenges of juggling schedules, vacations, and childcare are difficult for any parent. However, the struggles are even more extreme for co-parents who must navigate the complications while also sharing custody of minor children. You will be addressing summer vacations and parenting time across two households. At the same time, the lack of a school schedule leaves a void where there was once a significant amount of structure. Disputes are common when parents have competing ideas of what the break holds for kids.

Though there may be challenges with parenting time and summer vacations, it is possible to get through the next few months with minimal stress. You will need a carefully crafted parenting plan to serve as a solid foundation, and a skilled Texas child custody lawyer can guide you. Still, there are a few points to note on parenting time during summer breaks.

Your Existing Parenting Plan

At the outset, you must review the current order on file with the court, as this is essentially a private law that applies to both parents. When a divorce decree is entered, it will include details on conservatorship and possession; the same is true if your parental rights stem from paternity proceedings. These terms are the legal concepts you know familiarly as custody and visitation, so they also touch on parenting time throughout the year – including school breaks.

If your current court order includes specifics or a formula for determining the parenting time schedule, it is binding and there can be consequences for violating it. This is why it is important to check what is in place before taking any other action.

Texas Standard Possession Order

Your court case may have resulted in a judge entering a Standard Possession Order, which is presumed to be in the best interests of a child three years or older. This order allows parties to exercise parenting time whenever they can agree, but the following terms apply in the absence of agreement:

  • The noncustodial parent gets 30 days of possession during summer vacation; and
  • When their households are more than 100 miles apart, the noncustodial parent can exercise parenting time 42 days during summer break.

Modifying Parenting Time By Agreement

Regardless of whether the Standard Possession Order or other arrangement is in effect by court order, parents are free to work out their summertime parenting plan by agreement. Texas law provides you with great leeway in coming up with a visitation schedule that works for your unique situation, so there are numerous benefits of agreeing upon a modification to parenting time: 

  • Parents have control and can create a plan that works for the summer and beyond.
  • You will not be forced into the rigid rules governing Texas child visitation, so you can be creative with your parenting time solution.
  • Though you will have to get court approval for the modification, a judge will usually enter the agreed order without a hearing – so long the arrangement complies with the child’s best interests standard.

Contested Hearings On Modifying Parenting Time

When parties are unable to agree on how to adjust parenting time over summer vacation, the one seeking modification must file a petition in court. The judge will usually require parties to participate in mediation as a last attempt at resolution, but absent an agreement the parents will have to attend a court hearing on disputes. As with all other issues related to minor children, the court’s focus will be on the child’s best interests. To prevail in a petition to modify, the parent must show that the arrangement meets the factors established by case law.

In addition, the parent petitioning to modify visitation must be able to prove:

  • Circumstances have materially and substantially changed since entry of the order on parenting time; and
  • This change in circumstances affects the child, one parent, or both parents.

Contact Our Texas Child Custody Attorneys To Discuss Your Rights

These are just a few of the factors and considerations to keep in mind as you assess parenting time during summer vacation. A workable solution may require negotiations and compromise, though formal action may be necessary through mediation or court action. You put your parental rights at risk if you do not have solid legal representation, so please contact The Ramos Law Group, PLLC to learn how we can assist. We can set up a consultation at our offices in Houston, TX to evaluate your circumstances and decide how to proceed.