Managing your own schedule is hard enough, but accounting for an infant child and your ex can create chaos without the right preparation. An infant presents unique issues that older children do not: What if the child is breastfed? What if the custodial parent co-sleeps with the infant? What if the infant’s nap schedule conflicts with the non-custodial parent’s plans? Not all courts will order overnights for infants, so this might not be an issue for some parents when determining an infant possession schedule.
The infant years are crucial for bonding and attachment, so even the non-custodial parents must have access, if the court has deemed it safe. This can mean visits from half an hour to a few hours several times each week. A custodial parent might struggle with the concept of handing the child over to the other parent. Often, custodial parents feel they have developed an instinct for the child’s needs. However, the other parent can still be a good parent even when using a different approach. The custodial parent can also share information about the child’s schedule and other needs.
Pumping and bottle-feeding might be an option for some breastfeeding mothers during this time. Mothers should examine any underlying concerns about leaving the child overnight with the other parent.
Negotiating An Agreement Between Parents
There can be several advantages to working out an agreement outside of court. It can be better for the infant if parents are able to manage their conflicts. Negotiating an agreement can also allow parents to reach solutions that better suit their schedules and their family. An agreement for possession and access should focus on the best interests of the child and not the convenience of the parents, but parents may be able to come up with schedules that satisfy both.
As the child gets older, the schedule may need modification. It’s important to understand the law around possession orders for children before comparing it to the law for infant possession orders.
Possession And Access For Children Three Years Old And Above
The Texas Family Code presumes the Standard Possession Order (SPO) to be in the best interests of a child if the child is at or above the age of 3.
Standard Possession Order
In Texas, Standard Possession Orders indicate that parents can have possession of their child whenever both of them agree. This means that the custodial and noncustodial parent can decide their own parenting time schedule that works for their family.
However, if both parents don’t agree, the Texas Standard Possession Order states when the noncustodial parent can have possession of the child. There are two schedules depending on whether the parents live more or less than 100 miles apart. While school holiday and school year schedules will not apply if your children are above the age of three but they haven’t started school, you can still spend the day with your children on the weekends.
Living Within 100 Miles Of Each Other
If you and your ex live within 100 miles of each other, the noncustodial parent can visit the infant on:
- The 1st, 3rd, and 5th weekends of every month
- Thursday evenings during the school year
- Spring vacation holidays on even-numbered years
- 30 days during summer vacation holidays from July 1 to July 31, unless notice is provided by April 1 for a different arrangement
The weekend visitation time takes place from 6:00 pm on Friday to 6:00 pm on Sunday. On Thursday evenings, the visitation time is 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm. You may need to get a copy of your children’s school schedule to understand your visitation days.
Living More Than 100 Miles Apart From Each Other
If parents live more than 100 miles apart, the non-custodial parent can visit the infant on:
- Either the 1st, 3rd, and 5th weekends of every month or not more than one weekend per month of the non-custodial parent’s choice. The non-custodial parent must give the custodial parent 14 days’ notice before a designated weekend
- Spring vacation every year
- 42 days during summer vacation from June 15 to July 27, unless notice is provided by April 1 for a different arrangement during summer holidays
If you are the non-custodial parent and you opt for one weekend per month, you need to elect this option in writing to the parent with primary possession and access to the child within 90 days after both of you start to live more than 100 miles apart. The weekend visitation time takes place from 6:00 pm on Friday to 6:00 pm on Sunday.
Possession And Access For Children Under Three Years Old
Under the Texas Family Code, the Standard Possession Order is not the presumed order if your child is under the age of three. However, if you and your ex cannot come to an agreement about the best infant possession schedule and arrangement and your attorney does not effectively make the case for modifications to the Standard Possession Order (SPO), the judge may mandate a Standard Possession Order for your infant which is not always in their best interest.
You must follow the court-ordered parenting plan if you and your ex-spouse do not agree on the child custody arrangement.
Factors Affecting Infant Possession Schedules
- The caregiving that each parent provided to the child before and after the child custody lawsuit
- The effect on the child if he or she were to be separated from either parent
- Willingness and availability of the parents to be caregivers
- Child’s physical, medical, behavioral, and developmental needs
- Influence of individuals other than parents that will be present during periods of possession
- Presence of siblings
- Needs of the child to have healthy attachments with both parents
- The proximity of the parents’ homes
- Whether the schedule should shift towards the Standard Possession Order schedule over time. This is based on the child’s age and minimal contact with one parent
- Parents’ ability to share in parenting responsibilities
- Any other considerations that affect the best interest of the child
If you have opinions on a custom possession schedule that would be appropriate for your infant, discuss it with your attorney before your first court hearing. He or she can then bring it to the attention of the court. It’s also wise to consult a lawyer when writing a possession order. You should include how the possession schedule will change when your child turns three.
Phased Possession Schedules
It’s very common that the court order will start with a custom possession order before transitioning to the Texas Family Code’s Standard Possession Order (SPO) when your child reaches the age of 3. This happens especially if the noncustodial parent did not have much contact or parenting time with the child. The court order may list a number of phases that must be completed before moving on to the next phase. These phases typically involve increasing the amount of time the child spends with the noncustodial parent.
Getting Approval From The Judge
As long as both parents agree on the child custody and visitation schedule, it’s much easier to have the Texas family law court approve your plan and finalize it in legal child custody orders.
If both of you cannot agree, each of you will have to propose a child custody and visitation schedule and why you believe that the schedule you’re proposing is in your child’s best interest. Do not assume the Texas family law judge will agree with your proposed schedule. They can also decide to have the SPO as the court-ordered child custody and visitation schedule for your children.
Considerations For Custom Custody And Visitation Orders
Here are some other considerations when you’re writing a custom possession order to propose to the Texas family law judge.
Determining possession of the child and the best custody and visitation schedules can be very challenging if the mother is still breastfeeding the infant. While the mother may need to nurse the child often, breastfeeding should not be used as a reason to stop the father from spending time with the infant. It’s important for the father to bond with the baby during this time.
Fathers can get parenting time before and after feeding. However, they may need to be flexible with their time when the baby needs to nurse. This will help to balance the baby’s feeding with the need for the father to bond with the baby. Often both parents also need to work together to help meet the baby’s needs in the first year.
If your work schedule changes frequently because you travel often, frequently work at night, or have changing workdays, you may have the case to propose a custom schedule that works for your family.
Physical And Emotional Needs
If your child has medical conditions or special physical and emotional needs, you may need to propose more time with the parent who is better equipped to handle them or suggest an arrangement where the child’s best interest will be met.
Changing SPO Terms
You can propose changes to the terms of the Standard Possession Order. For example, you may not want to allow your child to stay overnight at the other parent’s home. Instead, you can propose more frequent day visits but not allow your child to stay overnight.
You can also propose the length of time that the noncustodial parent should have if you think that the weekend is too long. For example, you can propose brief periods of possession of one day on the weekends.
It’s extremely important to be proactive about proposing the infant custody and visitation schedule that meets the needs of your family and children. It’s easiest if both spouses already agree. However, it’s still possible to get the Texas family law court to approve your proposed custody and visitation schedule even if one parent doesn’t agree.
Do not let the judge order the Standard Possession Order set forth in the Texas Family Code if it will not help to ensure the best interests of your children. Visitation laws for children under the age of three can be very different from visitation laws for children at or above the age of three. You need an understanding of the differences.
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