Fathers going through divorce in Texas often face an uphill battle. Many times fathers have to leave the marital home, end up seeing their children less often, and are usually ordered to pay child support directly out of their paycheck. Fathers are also regularly ordered to have visitation exercised according to the Texas Standard Possession Order.
Exercising a “Standard Possession” order is a substantial decrease in time from seeing a child every day during the marriage or relationship. However, there has been a recent push to provide fathers with more time with their children. The Texas Legislature recently amended the law to expand the time a non-custodial parent can have with their kids if the non-custodial parent lives 50 miles or less from the custodial parent. Fathers living close to their ex have a better chance to maintain a strong parent child relationship with their children. This means it is advantageous for a father to live within a 50 mile radius from his ex so that he can have more time with his kids.
The updated law is found in Texas Family Code §153.3171. This law applies to cases filed on or after September 1, 2021. This updated law provides for expanded possession for parents living 50 miles or less apart. The changes are most apparent during the school year, when the non-custodial parent now has visitation with their children from the time they get out of school on Thursday until the beginning of school the following Monday. The addition of having the kids on Thursday and Sunday overnights (as opposed to just Friday and Saturday overnights under the traditional standard possession order) goes a long way to helping the non-custodial parent have more quality time with their children. Since the non-custodial parent is often the father, this change almost doubles the time a dad spends with his kids during the school year.
There are some other minor changes that expand holiday visitation under this new possession order, but the big victory for divorced dads or separated dads will be having their kids more during the school year. Of course, the Court will still apply the “best interests of the child” standard and that could prevent the non-custodial parent from obtaining this expanded schedule. However, in the majority of cases the Court should apply this schedule, most often benefiting the father.
This extended possession schedule for divorced or separated dads living 50 miles or less apart is not mandatory. The non-custodial parent can opt-out of this schedule and keep the traditional standard visitation schedule.
Unfortunately the change in the law is not sufficient to constitute a material and substantial change of circumstance to change a prior court order from the standard possession to this expanded possession schedule. Thus, fathers with a court order mandating the traditional standard possession schedule cannot automatically file a modification lawsuit to move into this expanded possession schedule.
With that said a father should strongly consider living within 50 miles or less from his ex in order to increase his time with his children under the updated Texas Family Code.
For further explanation or help with you divorce or child custody case, contact The Law Office of Rita Dixon at (817) 768-6333.