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What Deems a Parent Noncustodial?

In Texas, many parents share joint managing conservatorship, which is our state’s term for joint custody. While conservatorship is labeled as joint, one parent is named the primary conservator and the other, by default, is the non-primary parent. Only lawyers typically use the word conservator. So for primary conservator think “custodial parent,” and for non-primary conservator think “noncustodial parent.”

Under Texas law, noncustodial parents have most of the same rights and duties as the custodial parent, but they do not decide the child’s primary residence. In practice, noncustodial parents also enjoy less time with their children and typically pay child support to the other parent. If you have questions about custody, please contact one of our Houston child custody lawyers today.

Visitation Rights of the Noncustodial Parent

The custodial parent has the ability to decide where the child will live. The noncustodial parent, by contrast, has time with the child, which is called “visitation and access” or simply “visitation.”

Texas has a Standard Possession Order that applies in most cases. For example, if you live within 100 miles of the custodial parent, you should have the following visitation:

  • At least two hours every Thursday evening
  • At least two weekends a month
  • At least 30 days during summer vacation
  • Alternating holidays (such as Christmas every other year)
  • Alternating spring breaks

While your child is with you, you should be able to enjoy your time together without interference from the custodial parent. This means you can enjoy activities without the custodial parent trying to control what you do.

Visitation is determined by a judge in a Final Decree of Divorce or other custody order. Consequently, the custodial parent does not have a unilateral right to deny you access to your child. If he or she does, then you will need to go into court and inform the judge, who can take remedial action.

How Do You Know if You are the Noncustodial Parent?

You should read the court order. You might have agreed with your ex as to who will serve as the custodial parent, or a judge could have made that decision for you as part of the divorce or custody action.

As you can see by the Standard Possession Order listed above, the custodial parent has more time with the child. However, you might have worked out a different custody arrangement with the other parent. At base, “custodial parent” is a legal designation.

Are Most Noncustodial Parents Men?

Yes. Around 90% of noncustodial parents are fathers. As stated above, though, this is a legal designation. Do not assume because you are the father that you are the noncustodial parent. Read the court order.

Child Support & the Noncustodial Parent

Under Texas guidelines, the noncustodial parent pays child support to the custodial parent. The amount will be determined by the number of children you are supporting and your net income.

Sometimes, children end up staying with the noncustodial parent for increasing amounts of time. There are several reasons for this. As the child ages, he or she might want to spend more time with the noncustodial parent. In other cases, the custodial parent is busy with work or a new romantic relationship and it’s simply easier for the kids to spend time at the other parent’s house.

Although the children are now living with you, you still must pay child support according to the support order. If you fail to, your unpaid support will pile up and earn interest as arrears. You can only stop paying support when the order is modified by a judge, NOT by an informal agreement between the parties. 

Spending More Time with Your Children

Noncustodial parents can request more time with their children than the possession order requires. There are two ways you can go about this:

  • Reach an agreement with the custodial parent. If he or she agrees, then you can draft a new parenting plan and submit it to the judge for approval.
  • File a motion with the court asking to modify the possession order. You will need to show that it is in the best interest of the child for you to have more time and that a material and substantial change has occurred since the original order was issued.  If the other parent opposes, you will have a contested hearing where the judge will hear evidence.

It is not unusual for everyone’s needs to change as the years roll by. Meet with an attorney to review whether changing the possession order is realistic.

Speak with Ramos Law Group, PLLC Today

Noncustodial parents have a key role to play in a child’s life. However, the role can change over time. To protect your legal rights, contact a Houston visitation attorney today to review your case. We can advise whether to negotiate a change to visitation with the custodial parent or whether to seek relief from the court.

Last Updated on May 23, 2023 by Mary E. Ramos

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Mary E. Ramos

Mary E. Ramos is Board Certified in Family Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. She is recognized and respected throughout the Houston legal community for dedication in effectively representing clients’ rights and interests. Mary understands the emotional side of divorce and brings a special compassion to each and every case.

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