The overarching definition of parental rights is all of the legal rights and obligations that come with being a parent. This includes the responsibility to care for and protect your child, providing all your child’s needs, and making important decisions about your child’s life.
In the case of a divorce, this also includes certain aspects like custody and visitation issues. As a single father and a noncustodial parent (meaning you do not have primary custody of your child), it’s important for you to understand the rights that you have when it comes to your child.
In Texas, approximately 90 percent of noncustodial parents are fathers. Texas law presumes that both parents will act as “joint managing conservators.” This fancy jargon simply means that you both will be sharing parental rights and duties. As the noncustodial parent, you don’t have the right to choose where the child lives, but you do have the right to scheduled visitation times and the right to know the whereabouts of your child. Visitation rights may vary, depending on the individual needs of you and your child. The Standard Possession Order looks like this:
If you live within 100 miles of your child, you have visitation:
- First, third, and fifth weekends of every month
- Every Thursday evening
- Alternating holidays
- An extended period of time over summer vacation
If you live more than 100 miles away:
- The same weekend visitations or reduced to one weekend a month
- No mid-week visitation
- Holiday schedule remains the same
- Every spring break and an extended visit over summer vacation
The court is able to modify this according to the child’s best interest. A modification could happen if the child is under three years old or if the noncustodial parent has little to no interaction with the child. In this case, the court can order a Modified Possession Order which starts with shorter visits that get longer and longer until the Standard Possession Order is reached. For more information on how the court determines what is in the best interest of the child, please refer to page 14 of the Texas Attorney General Handbook For Noncustodial Parents.
As the father, it is your right to see your child. If for any reason at all you are worried that you are not getting full access to your rights as the noncustodial parent, reach out to a family law attorney who has the proper experience to help with your unique case. If you have any unanswered questions regarding child support or establishing paternity, consult the Handbook mentioned in the previous paragraph.