How does the Equal Parenting Act influence a child custody case in San Antonio?

San Antonio, TX – As of September 1, 2021, non-custodial parents in Texas get more time to spend with their children. The Equal Parenting or Shared Parenting Act was meant to allow children to build a stronger relationship with their non-custodial parent and to answer the frustration of many parents, mostly fathers, who are afraid they’re losing touch with the kids after the divorce.

What is the Equal Parenting Act?

Under Texas law, family court judges must follow the Standard Possession Order when deciding how much time a child will spend with either parent after a divorce. Before the Equal Parenting Act was introduced, the non-custodial parent got access or possession for 20-25% of the child’s time. Now, the child will spend up to 40% of his or her time with the non-custodial parent.

What does this mean in practical terms? For instance, during the school year, Thursday and Sunday possession periods become overnight visits. The non-custodial parent doesn’t have to return the child in the evening, but will instead drop him or her at the school gate the next day.

This has been termed the Expanded Standard Possession Order (ESPO) and will be considered default in a child custody case.

There is a catch though. The ESPO only applies when both parents live within 50 miles of each other.

The law is not meant to punish in any way those who live further apart. The regulations have the child’s best interests in mind. Going back and forth on long trips can interfere with a child’s schedule and become a burden.

When the parents live more than 100 miles apart, the non-custodial parent does not get weeknight visits and he may get only one weekend with the child per month, instead of the alternate weekends’ schedule in an SPO. Instead, the non-custodial parent will get to spend more time with the child over the summer, 42 days instead of 30.

The Equal Parenting Act is not mandatory

When a couple gets a divorce and they live close to each other, the judge is required to issue an ESPO. However, the parents can discuss the issue with trusted San Antonio child custody lawyers and make different arrangements. If the Equal Parenting Act provisions do not suit their arrangements they can ask the judge to grant an old-style SPO. However, the primary custodian or conservator cannot refuse an ESPO simply because they don’t want the kid to spend that much time with the other parent.

Can you lose visitation rights if you’re behind on child support?

Child support and visitation rights are different things. The primary custodian cannot refuse to let the child spend the weekend at the other parent’s house if the latter is behind on child support payments. This is because it is in the child’s best interests to have a healthy relationship with both parents. The primary custodian must contact skilled San Antonio divorce lawyers and file a petition to the court for the money they are owed.

Can you modify a child custody order?

This can only be done through the court. If there are significant changes in a parent’s circumstances, either of the parents can ask the judge to modify the existing visitation schedule. Your lawyers will gather the proofs needed to support your claim and submit them to the judge. For instance, if the non-custodial parent loses their job and has to make different living arrangements, the primary custodian may be entitled to ask the judge to cut overnight visits for the time being.

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