New legislation went into effect on Sept. 1, 2021, affecting Texas parents with 50/50 or shared custody orders. The new law expands the beginning and ending times for weekend stays with the child’s noncustodial parent.
The reason for the law is to provide children more time with their noncustodial parent (called the “possessory conservator” in the new law). With these new beginning and end times, the possessory conservator is able to have about 46% of the total time with their child.
Here’s how it works
The new law allows for an Expanded Standard Possession Order (ESPO). If you are the noncustodial parent, this order will extend your child’s time with you. Instead of picking your kids up from school on Friday, you will get them after school on Thursday until Monday morning when you drop them off at school.
This change is not retroactive. This means it won’t apply to you if you already have an order in place. Instead, it applies to custody disputes that are pending as of Sept. 1, 2021 or were filed after that date. The new law automatically applies to custody orders created after that date if certain criteria are met.
Requirements if you are the noncustodial co-parent
You must live within 50 miles of your child’s primary home. With new custody orders, the extended time applies automatically for parents living within 50 miles. However, you can opt out of this right to the extra time.
If you live more than 50 miles but not more than 100 miles from your child’s primary home, you can “opt in” – it just isn’t automatic.
Reasons the new law may not be applied
Despite the change, the court’s primary concern is doing what is best for your child. A judge may choose not to allow the extended time because:
- The travel time between the two houses is too much for your child.
- One or both parents do not have reliable vehicles, and public transportation isn’t an option.
- The possessory conservator fails to stay involved in their child’s life on a consistent basis.
Know before you go
Before going to court, you need to understand what is required by this new law. Don’t agree to or waive your rights to the extended time without knowing your responsibilities first. Unfortunately, you can’t ask for a modification of your custody order just to take advantage of the new law.