What’s rights do I have as a father while I’m waiting for my divorce to be finalized

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What’s rights do I have as a father while I’m waiting for my divorce to be finalized

My wife of 11 years cheated and ended our relationship. We’re currently waiting for the 61 day period to pass so our divorce can be finalized. During this time, I’ve met a woman and she’s moved in with me. My soon-to-be ex-wife has decided our daughter is not allowed in my house with my girlfriend living there. She also won’t allow me to take my daughter anywhere she thinks the girlfriend may be or go to. In our decree, the agreed visitation is shared, a week on, week off. She says that since the divorce isn’t final, she doesn’t have to follow that and if I push it, she’ll take me to court to change visitation that favors her more. Not sure what I can do at this point. I want to see my daughter and bring her back to my house, but at this point I feel stuck.

Asked on February 23, 2017 under Family Law, Texas

Answers:

B.H.F., Member, Texas State Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

Until an order is entered, both parents have the right of access to the child.....but one parent does not trump another parent.  This means that you can't take child from her possession, but once you have your daughter, then your time is your time until you decide to take her back.  So, technically speaking, right now, you don't have to listen to your wife or respect her wishes.  However, keep in mind two things.  First, contested divorces are ugly and financially and emotionally expensive.  If you can hold off having your daughter around the new girlfriend for roughly 8 weeks, then it will be easier and cheaper than going to court for temporary orders or fighting a custody battled for six months or longer.  Second, you do not want to violate any standing orders.  Many jurisdictions in Texas have now adopted orders which automatically go into effect when a divorce is filed which prohibit spouses from having guest of the opposite sex spend the night.  If you have a conservative judge, you really don't want to go to the court and say 'hey... my wife is being unreasonable by not wanting my kid around my new girlfriend,' when this may also be the court's policy.  The standing order will go away after the entry of the decree.  Understand that the courts are not only imposing this morality clause while the marriage is still active for the sake of morality.  They impose it because it can be confusing for a child to have a new person come into the picture so early.  They find that it's an easier transition for children if the marriage is dissolved first... and then new people enter the parenting picture. 
If you can't wait the roughly 8 weeks needed to get the final decree entered, then you can petition the court for temporary orders and let the court set out a schedule for visitation so that you don't have to be at the mercy of your wife's whims.


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