Many people are familiar with the standard possession schedule that is written in the Texas Family Code. It basically involves first, third, and fifth weekend possession with rotating holidays and extra time during the summer. Less people are familiar with section 153.015 of the family code that provides a way for judges to order electronic communication with a child as a way to supplement the time a parent has to spend away from their child under a possession order.
What does section 153.015 say?
The court may award a party reasonable periods of electronic communication with a child upon request of the party. In determining whether to award electronic communication, the court will consider whether electronic communication is in the best interest of the child, whether equipment necessary to facilitate the electronic communication (phone/ipad/computer) is reasonably available to all parties subject to the order, and any other factor the court considers appropriate.
What does this mean?
It means that the court can order electronic communication, but the court doesn’t have to. Typically courts are very receptive to reasonable electronic communication as a way to allow both parents to keep in contact with their children. Especially with older children who a court may be able to order that they have access to a cell phone for reasonable periods in order to contact their other parent and receive messages from them daily.
What happens if a court orders electronic communication?
Each party will have to exchange whatever information is necessary to make the communication possible, whether that is a phone number for facetime or phone calls; an email address; or a screenname for skype or a similar program. Each party will also be required to notify the other party of any change in the e-mail address or other electronic communication access information within 24 hours of this information changing. The parties will also have to make whatever device is necessary to make the communication possible available to the child in a reasonable way during the times ordered.
What else should I know?
The court can’t consider the use of electronic communication as a factor in determining what amount to set child support at and electronic communication is also not supposed to used in place of physical possession of a child when physical possession is practical. Additionally, when there is a finding of family violence in a case, the court can only order electronic communication if the parties agree to the communication and if the order provides for the electronic communication through specific language and font provided for in the family code.
Contact Guest and Gray to schedule a free consult if you have a question about any family law matter. We can discuss the availability of electronic communication in your case and any other issues you may be concerned with.