Texas Family Code Section 153.254 was changed in the 2011 legislative session. Please note that the link is to the old law. The new language goes into effect September 1, 2011 but will not be posted until the website updates. The new language has been published elsewhere but the changes might not be well-known yet.
Under the old language a Judge was authorized to “render an order appropriate under the circumstances” for children under three years of age and to make provisions for possession and access once the child turned three.
Under the new language the Judge can consider many relevant factors including caregiving provided before the suit, effect of separation on the child; availability of either party as caregivers, needs of the child, impact on others who will be present during periods of visitation, the need for continuity of routine, the need for the child to develop healthy attachments to both parents, location and proximity of the residences of all parties, and to provide for incremental shifts in visitation to match standard visitation schedules.
These factors should provide Courts in Austin, Georgetown, San Marcos, and all other Texas counties with a new reason to grant equal access to both parents. All Divorce or Custody suits filed in Texas after this September 1, 2011 date will be able to utilize these new expanded factors. Being a divorce lawyer, these new factors will provide welcome relief to parents going through a difficult divorce and custody battle with a young child involved. Families with older children will keep stronger ties with their younger siblings. In much the same respect, Grandparents and other caregivers also stand to benefit under the new law. Courts have been hesitant in awarding equal time to a parent who might have been out of the house more during the first years of the child’s life but who also contributed just as much time and affection in the after-hours portions of their day. This will prevent a parent from losing out on visitation just because their schedules are not conducive to the intricate and demanding schedules of younger children. Courts can point to this new law as a progressive benchmark in giving visitation schedules that match the shared duties of modern parents, which are in stark contract to domestic notions of prior years.
The real-world details of your case should be described to the Court as they fit within these new factors. A Court should be able to apply these to your case and maintain a level of contact for each parent that’s in keeping with this new law. I hope this new law offers the stability and calm necessary to protect the interests of young children and make sure no parent is left out of important initial phases of the child’s development. Equality for all now has a firmer footing in Texas Divorce cases.