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How do parenting time laws work when parents are in different states?

by | Feb 12, 2021 | Decree Modification, Parenting Plans |

Because I’ve been working with clients in states that border Texas lately, the issue of how parenting time works for parents in different states has come into focus for me. There are usually two different factors in play when talking about Texas, since it’s such a big state. One is how state laws can differ, though that’s typically not a factor if the current decree is for the state where the child primarily resides. The other is what happens when parents live more than 100 miles apart.

As we wrote in a previous blog article, “The default in the Texas Family Code holds that the non-primary 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 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.”

That’s good in theory, but this can be challenging in practice. There’s the planning and driving that’s involved; depending on how far away it is, it can make a good chunk of parenting time spent in a car ride. Some parents opt to do a hotel-based weekend in or near where the child lives, but that can be expensive, and that can also shut out family and friends who live near the parent venturing out to be with his or her kids.

(During the pandemic, of course, there are additional concerns about parenting and how travel might be affected, as well how keeping kids safe might be impacted by the pandemic. A hotel stay might be a good solution for a parent in normal times, but that same parent might deem it too great a risk right now.)

It’s possible for a parent to seek compensation if that parent is bearing more of the travel burden to accommodate parenting time. For example, if the father has to go all the way to the mother’s house to get the child for his parenting time, rather than the parents meeting at some agreed-upon place, the father can appeal to the court for compensation.

The Texas Family Code does look to provide a solution to the parenting time issue we’ve discussed with makeup time in the summer, and it’s certainly possible to try to create more “compensation” for missed time or increased travel time with additional summer time. But when you’re already giving a 42-day block of time to one parent, there’s simply not that much summer time left to award.

Mediation can possibly help deal with these matters, which may actually be better for the parents involved, in that more creative solutions can be arrived at through mediation than in the courtroom. In litigation, judges can only do so much and can only be so creative in what they decide — judges look to the Texas Family Code for guidance in settling disputes.

If you’re looking to resolve a situation like this, or you need to modify a decree to fit better with how you and your ex are now parenting, the Law Office of Lisa A. Vance can help you do that. Whether you need mediation, can craft a new decree with a little guidance, or need to take matters to court, we have the experience and the flexibility to help you out.

This article was written by Byrd Bonner