In Texas, courts will usually presume that a “standard possession order” is in the best interest of the child upon the parents’ divorce. However, in the case of children under three years old, this is not the case.
Children under three are at a critical stage developmentally. Experts agree that very young children three have rather short attention spans and learning at this stage is the result of repetition. For children this age and younger, the longer periods between visitations in a standard possession order make bonding with the non-possessory parent more difficult. Further, many children at that age are often breastfeeding, making the overnight visitation found in the standard possession order especially problematic.
In most cases, Texas courts will grant the non-custodial parent shorter, but more frequent visits, than those in a standard possession order. This visitation will change over time; including when the child reaches the age of three and therefore the Court’s order for visitation will have ‘step-up’ provisions. These periods of visitation may start with a few hours at a time and gradually, over the next few months or years, increase to half-days, and then full-days and finally to overnights until full standard possession is reached.
Cindy Diggs, Board Certified in Family Law and Civil Trial Law, Diggs & Sadler 5300 Memorial Drive, Suite 900, Houston, Texas 77007, 713-766-5355.