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Child Custody

Texas Family Law: Extended Summer Possession

In this article, we will be discussing extended summer possession as it appears in Standard Possession Orders (SPO) in Texas. The easiest way to explain a Standard Possession Order is that it is the default child custody order in Texas. Every order is different, and your order could very well be different, so it’s incredibly important not to take and run with what we are saying, but instead to look to your order and always to consult with a family law attorney.

As always, the information in this article does not create an attorney-client relationship and should not be taken as legal advice. Because everyone’s circumstances are unique, your attorney would need to know the particular facts of your situation to be able to provide legal advice. Instead, we hope this article will be educational and informational, as perhaps a starting point for some big decisions you may see on the horizon, or perhaps you just want to learn a bit more about Texas Family Law.

What is a Standard Possession Order?

The Texas Family Code, to which all Texas judges are bound, also contains a detailed possession calendar called the Standard Possession Order (SPO). Most years, the SPO gives the non-primary parent about 42% possession time of the kids. Additionally, the expanded version of this schedule provides the non-primary parent with extra time, around 48%. Unless there are incredibly odd circumstances, most judges will order the SPO, or the expanded version at the non-primary parent’s election, for the non-primary parent.

What is extended summer possession?

Extended summer possession is normally the period during the child’s summer break that allows the non-custodial parent to have the child stay with them for a longer amount of time.

How long is the extended summer possession?

If the custodial and non-custodial parents live within 100 miles of each other, the non-custodial parent is allowed to select up to 30 days as their extended summer possession, and these can be exercised either as one or two periods of possession during the child’s summer break.

However, if the parents live over 100 miles from each other, the non-custodial parent may designate up to 42 days for their extended summer possession period of selection which may also be exercised in up to two separate periods of time.

What does a non-custodial parent have to do to select their days in the summer?

Regardless of whether the parents live within 100 miles of each other or over 100 miles apart, in both situations if the non-custodial parent wants to select specific dates to exercise their extended summer possession, they must give a written notice to the primary conservator by April 1st that specifies which days they chose for their extended summer possession.

What happens if the non-custodial parent failed to designate their preferred days by April 1st?

If the non-custodial parent failed to provide written notice by April 1st, and the parents live within 100 miles of each other, the non-custodial parent will automatically have July 1st to July 31st as their extended summer period of possession with the child.

If the parents live over 100 miles apart, and the non-custodial parent failed to designate by April 1st, they will have June 15th to July 27th as their extended summer period of possession.

Those are long periods of time – what options do the custodial parent have to see their child during these times?

Regardless of whether the parents live over or under 100 miles apart, the custodial parent has the choice to have the child on any one weekend (Friday at 6pm to Sunday at 6pm, so for 48 hours) during the possessory conservator’s extended summer period of possession, so long as the primary conservator gives the non-custodial parent written notice by April 15th.

Does the custodial parent have the opportunity to have an extended period of summer visitation with the child?

Yes. The primary conservator may also choose one weekend (that they would not normally have possession, usually a first, third, or fifth weekend of the month) during the summer to exercise possession, as long as they provide the non-custodial parent at least two weeks’ advance notice. That essentially takes away one weekend from the other parent, giving a longer uninterrupted period of 21 days for the custodial parent.

What other changes to the possession schedule occur when it is summer break?

A major difference that many people don’t realize is that Thursday visitation – whether it is 6pm to 8pm or an overnight – ceases once school has released for the summer and resume again with the regular school term.

In light of the changes occurring due to coronavirus, how are we currently determining when the regular school term begins and ends?

On March 17th the Supreme Court of Texas issued an emergency order related to COVID-19 and specifically stated that: “[f]or purposes of determining a person’s right to possession of and access to a child under a court-ordered possession schedule, the original published school schedule shall control in all instances. Possession and access shall not be affected by the school’s closure that arises from an epidemic or pandemic, including what is commonly referred to as the COVID19 pandemic.”

That means possession and access to kids should continue as if there is no virus, and to follow your school district’s calendar as originally published.

What resources are available for parents who have the Standard Possession Order or Expanded Standard Possession Order and want to visually see their parenting time?

At Hunt Law Firm’s website, familylawyerkaty.com, you can click “Resources” at the top of the home page, and if you scroll down you will find our 2020 Standard Possession Order calendar, and other helpful items we think our clients and the community will benefit from.

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