Let’s say you’re a parent of a child, you’ve recently divorced in San Antonio, and are operating under a standard divorce decree in which you have parenting time on Thursday nights, on the first, third, and fifth weekend, and get to choose 30 days over the summer.
And then, let’s say you have a job opportunity that will take you to Dallas. It’s obviously going to change your parenting time, but how specifically? Does it mean that you have to choose between a new job and seeing your child?
The Texas Family Code actually makes specific provisions for situations in which parents live far apart, but not so far apart that they can’t engineer getting a child from one parent to the other.
In the Texas Family Code–specifically, in Chapter 153, which covers “conservatorship, possession, and access–the cut-off point is 100 miles. For parents who live less than 100 miles apart, the standard described above applies, unless the parents have created an alternate to standard orders they’re abiding by. The parent termed the “possessory conservator” gets parenting time between 6 p.m. Friday and 6 p.m. Sunday on designated weekends, whereupon the child is then returned to what is termed the “managing conversator.”
So, for example, if one parent lives in Austin and the other lives in San Antonio, they could arrange a meetup in New Braunfels or San Marcos to accommodate this schedule, or they could work out another arrangement.
(This brings up an important point about the Code-it’s meant to guide parents as well as to be a fallback if they can’t agree on a plan, but parents can mutually agree on what works for them if it’s in the best interest of the children and the court approves. If it makes more sense for a parent to pick up the kids after school on Friday and drop them off at school on Monday morning, and both parents agree to that, that’s certainly fine.)
But if the parents live more than 100 miles away, the default in the Texas Family Code holds that the possessory conservator can either opt for the first, third, and fifth weekend or for one (and not more than one) weekend a month of his or her choosing. (In the latter case, it requires 14 days’ written or telephonic notice from the parent requesting the specific weekend.)
To account for the distance and the potential missed time during the school year, the possessory conservator is allowed to have parenting time with the child for 42 days during the summer, as opposed to the 30 set aside for parents who live 100 miles or less apart. That parent can specify days if he or she doesn’t want the default dates of June 15 to July 27.
If you have any concerns about any logistical elements concerning children and parenting time, including who is responsible for transportation in each direction, it’s best to spell it out in the decree. The Texas Family Code, while providing good guidelines for parents, might not anticipate everything that you and a co-parent might run into. While decrees can be modified, and parents can agree to guidelines outside the decree, the decree always provides the default parameters should any disagreements arise.
The more thorough you can be, the better off you are in the months and years following the divorce. After all, you may stop being a couple, but you won’t stop being parents, regardless of how far apart you live. You’ll have to continue to be in contact about parenting time well after the divorce is final.