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Be Sure Your Vacation Plans Don’t Violate Your Custody Agreement

Every divorce that involves children in Texas also involves custody and visitation agreements. While these agreements typically are reached between the parents during the divorce case under court supervision, custody and visitation agreements are backed by court orders that make them legally enforceable. State law codifies a public policy that favors children having “frequent and continuing contact” with parents who have demonstrated an ability to act in the best interests of the children. However, that “frequent and continuing contact” cannot violate the terms of the custody agreement put in place by the court in your divorce case.

The Standard Texas Visitation Plan Provides Ample Opportunity For Vacations

In Texas, custody is referred to as “conservatorship,” while visitation is called “periods of possession.” Texas law presumes that parents will be joint conservators, meaning they will share responsibility for parental decisions. As long as this arrangement is in the best interests of the children, Texas law presumes that parents will share these responsibilities, regardless of actual physical custody.

Texas law provides for a standard visitation schedule for the noncustodial parent that gives the noncustodial parent ample visitation as well as timeframes where the visiting parent can take children on vacation. For parents who live within 100 miles of each other, for the noncustodial parent the state model visitation schedule includes:

  • First, third and fifth weekends of every month
  • Thursday evenings of each week
  • Alternating holidays (such as Thanksgiving every other year)
  • An extended period of time (30 days) during the summer vacation

Because the schedule is ordered and enforced by the court, deviating from the schedule can have serious legal consequences, including contempt of court that can have a negative impact on your visitation rights. If you are planning a summer vacation with your children and you are not the custodial parent, it is critical that you do so within the confines of the custody agreement in your divorce case.

If your vacation plans deviate from the custody agreement, you will need to have a written agreement with the custodial parent that allows you to deviate from the court-ordered schedule. Your custody agreement might require court approval for some vacations, such as out-of-state trips. In that case, an agreement with the custodial spouse will not be enough—you will need court approval. Get it. Taking a child out of state on vacation removes the child from the jurisdiction of a state divorce court judge. Judges do not take those kinds of actions lightly and could impose sanctions on you should the violation, however minor you might consider it to be, come to the judge’s attention. It always is better to follow the applicable agreements to the letter than to risk violations, however minor you might consider those violations, which could prompt a judge to impose sanctions on you.

Don’t Inadvertently Violate Your Conservatorship Agreement—Contact The Vendt Law Firm, P.L.L.C., for Legal Assistance

The last thing you want to do is become subject to legal sanctions for going on vacation with your children. Make sure you are complying with your conservatorship agreement before you go on vacation with your children. If you are subject to a conservatorship agreement in Katy or Richmond, consult the Vendt Law Firm, P.L.L.C., to make sure you are complying with the terms of the agreement. Contact the firm at (832) 263-6770 or through our online contact form.