In addition to determining which conservator will have the right to designate the primary residence of children (or whether neither will), courts in divorce and suits affecting the parent-child relationship are charged with determining what will be in the children’s best interest concerning possession and access. Keep in mind that Conservators do have the right to agree on specific variations concerning child visitation patterns, which, barring any prospective adverse impacts on the children, Texas courts will generally abide by.

Standard Visitation

Under the Texas Family Code, there is a presumption that it is in the best interest of the children for the non-residential conservator to have visitation with the children according to a Standard Possession Order, or “standard visitation.” Generally, this means that the non-residential conservator will be entitled to possession of the children on the first, third, and fifth weekends of each month (based on the position of the Friday), for some time on Thursdays during the school term, a certain amount of summer possession, and defined holiday visitation. In September of 2021, updates were made to the Texas Family Code, which added provisions for when parents live 50 miles apart or less. The new rules state that if the non-residential conservator lives 50 miles or less from the child’s primary residence, that conservator will automatically have the right to a more expanded visitation schedule, whereby, for example, weekend possession occurs from the time school is dismissed on Friday and continues until the time school resumes on Monday (as opposed to 6 p.m. Friday to 6:00 p.m. Sunday). Of course, exceptions to this can apply or may be agreed upon. In addition, a different schedule applies under the Standard Possession Order when the non-residential conservator resides more than 100 miles from the child’s primary residence, including a longer period of summer possession, no weekday possession, and so forth.

Less Common Visitation

Less common visitation patterns are, however, sometimes awarded by Texas courts if the parties agree and/or in cases where special circumstances exist which justify a different visitation schedule. Such circumstances, for example, might include parents that have traditionally shared 50/50 times before a divorce or separation or where one conservator has a rotating schedule, a non-first shift schedule, or works on weekends.

  • 50/50 Visitation Patterns – One of the more common alternate visitation schedules we see involves conservators sharing 50/50 time with children. There are multiple ways this might work:
  • Week-on/Week-off Schedule – Here, the Conservators rotate having the children reside with them for one week each. Typical Holiday and Summer visitation patterns are, however, generally still in force. This pattern has, over the years, been more and more discouraged by Texas courts for numerous reasons.

Note: Ask your Family Law Attorney why this pattern is discouraged.

  • 5-2-2-5 Schedule – The more favored 50/50 arrangement which has come into vogue in Texas is what is now called a “5-2-2-5” schedule. Typical Holiday and Summer visitation patterns are, however, generally still in force. This schedule allows Conservators to have more time with children each week, and it addresses concerns encountered by many parents and educators.

Note: Ask your Family Law Attorney about the advantages of this pattern and how it works.

  • A Specialty Crafted Schedule – This visitation pattern addresses the schedule of one or more Conservator(s) who has to contend with either a rotating work schedule, a non-first shift schedule, or must work on weekends. A schedule such as this is generally frowned upon by many courts as it can result in a destabilizing situation for both the children and the other Conservator. It will only be considered on a case-by-case basis, under specific circumstances, so long as the best interests of the children involved are not unduly impacted.

Note: Discuss with your Family Law Attorney why such a schedule might be necessary in your case.