Can I Text My Child When They Are with My Ex?
As tempting as it is to text your child when they’re spending time with your ex, you should be extremely careful before pushing that “send” button. Anything you send to your child could potentially be read by your former spouse and used against you in a custody dispute. If you repeatedly text your child during visits with your spouse, they could see that as you trying to undermine their relationship with your child.
At the Law Office of William Jang, PLLC, our Austin family law attorneys know how tricky divorce cases and custody orders can be. Our highly experienced lawyers can look at your situation and inform you of what your rights are and what your best course of action is when your child is visiting your ex. We can also work with you to get a custody order modified if you feel like you aren’t being allowed to adequately communicate with your child when they spend time with your former spouse.
For more information on our family law services, visit our contact page or call (512) 323-2333.
Child Custody Basics in Texas
Texas law does not use the terms “custody” or “visitation” when it comes to deciding which parents will raise and spend time with the children following a divorce. Instead, the courts use the terms “conservatorship,” “possession,” and access.”
“Conservatorship” is essentially each parent’s rights and duties when it comes to raising their child. It includes things like making sure the child’s medical needs are provided for, deciding where they’ll go to school, whether the child will receive any religious instruction, and so on. If only one parent is allowed to make these decisions for a child after a divorce, they are said to have Sole Managing Conservatorship. If both parents share in these rights and duties, they have Joint Managing Conservatorship.
“Possession” is physical custody of the child, and “access” is basically what we commonly think of as visitation time. In most divorce cases, the courts will award one parent primary possession, while also creating an access schedule for the child to visit with the other parent. If the parents cannot reach an agreement on visitation time on their own, under Texas law the “Standard Protection Order” gives the non-custodial parent the right to see their child on the first, third, and fifth weekend (if applicable) of each month from 6 p.m. on Friday to 6 p.m. on Sunday. The non-custodial parent also has the right to see the child on Thursday from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. each week during the regular school term, unless the courts find this extra visitation time is not in the child’s best interest.
Courts do not necessarily have to abide by the rules of the Standard Protection Order, however. In cases involving family violence or other potential dangers to the child, a judge can severely restrict a non-custodial parent’s visitation rights.
How Custody Orders Affect Communication With Your Child
Your post-divorce Custody Order has a significant impact on whether or not it’s a good idea to text your child when they’re with your ex. If you have Sole Managing Conservatorship of your child and the child spends most of their time with you, you have the right to know where they are and what they’re doing when they are spending time with your spouse. That said, spamming your child with texts while they are with your former spouse can make you look intrusive and give your ex ammunition to potentially have a Custody Order amended.
If you and your ex-spouse have Joint Managing Conservatorship, or if your spouse has Sole Managing Conservatorship, you need to be watchful about anything you send to your child. Whatever you send, even if you didn’t intend it in a negative light, could be read by your ex. They can use the text message as evidence to have a Custody Order amended and further limit your visitation time. If your ex-spouse is not following the terms of your Custody Order, however, sending your child a text to figure out what’s going on is reasonable and likely will not be seen in a negative light by the courts.
Ultimately, your best bet is to leave your child alone when they’re spending time with your former spouse, regardless of the particulars of your Custody Order. Unless you fear for your child’s safety, your former spouse has the right to spend time with them without interruptions from your text messages.
If you are concerned about what’s happening to your child during their visits with your ex, you can seek to have your custody order amended to include regular check-ins with your child via text messages.