Texas Standard Possession Order

The Texas Family Code has created a possession schedule for the non-possessory. Remember, there is no such thing as “primary custody” in Texas. We have three sections of the law related to children:

  1. Conservatorship, which is decision making ability for the child;
  2. Possession and access, which states who can see the child and when; and 
  3. Child support.

Here the Standard Possession Order falls under the “possession and access” block of children’s issues.

The Standard Possession Order, often referred to as an “SPO,” lays out the time a non-possessory parent can see the child. This means the SPO is the schedule for the parent who does not get to choose the child’s primary residence (meaning where the child is going to live) and also for the parent paying child support, typically.

If you have questions regarding a Standard Possession Order, contact Hunt Law Firm, PLLC today.

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How do I Know Which Standard Possession Order I Have?

There are two (and sometimes three) types of Standard Possession Orders, depending on how far the non-possessory parent lives from the child. 

Generally, the Standard Possession Order for 50 - 100 miles and over 100 miles mirror each other, however there can be a few differences.

Standard Possession Order Schedule

The Standard Possession Order breaks out time during:

The School Year in a Standard Possession Order

  • Weekends: The non-possessory parent gets to see the child on the first, third and fifth weekends of the month from 6:00 p.m. on Friday to 6:00 p.m. on Sunday. This continues during the school year and during the summer months.
  • Monday and Friday Holidays: If there is a federal holiday or teacher in-service day during the school year, the non-possessory parent gets that extra day when the holiday falls. For example, if there is a Friday holiday during the school year, the non-possessory parent’s time starts at 6:00 p.m. on Thursday. If there is a Monday holiday during the school year, the non-possessory parent’s time ends at 6:00 p.m. on Monday. What this effectively does is extend the weekend.
  • Thursday: The non-possessory parent also gets to see the child from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. every Thursday during the school year. Note that this does not include the summertime.
  • Spring Break: During the school year, spring break or spring vacation rotates yearly between the possessory and non-possessory parent. The non-possessory parent has spring break every even-numbered year and the possessory parent has spring break every odd-numbered year. These periods of possession begin and end at 6:00 p.m. each year. 

Summer in a Standard Possession Order

The child’s “summertime” is considered by the school calendar of the school the child is enrolled in or if the child is not in school, the school district where the child lives. Typically, the months of June and July will be considered “summertime.”

Weekends: The non-possessory parent gets to see the child on the first, third and fifth weekends of the month from 6:00 p.m. on Friday to 6:00 p.m. on Sunday.

Monday and Friday Holidays: If there is a federal holiday during the summertime, the non-possessory parent gets that extra day. For example, if there is a Friday holiday (like July 4th), the non-possessory parent’s time starts at 6:00 p.m. on Thursday. If there is a Monday holiday (like July 4th), the non-possessory parent’s time ends at 6:00 p.m. on Monday. What this effectively does is extend the weekend.

Extended Summer Possession

With Written Notice: By April 1 of each year, the non-possessory parent must designate thirty days of summer possession. The times the non-possessory parent can designate must begin no later than the time the child’s school is dismissed for the summer and must end at least one week before the child’s school resumes. What this does is create a window for the non-possessory parent to schedule time. The periods of time the non-possessory parent can designate must be no more than two separate periods of at least 7 consecutive days. The periods of time begin and end at 6:00 p.m.

Without Written Notice: If a non-possessory parent fails to designate his or her time, he or she automatically defaults to having July 1-31, as long as he or she lives within 100 miles from the child. If the non-possessory parent lives over 100 miles from the child and fails to notify the possessory parent, he or she automatically defaults to June 15 to July 27 of that year. 

Important Rights of the Possessory Parent for Summer

The possessory parent also has two important rights that can often be forgotten.

  • Take a Non-Possessory Parent’s 1/3/5 Weekend: The possessory parent has the ability to take one of the non-possessory parents first, third or fifth weekend during the summertime as long as it does not conflict with Father’s Day or does not conflict with the elected or defaulted extended summer possession. This possessory parent must give written notice of this to the non-possessory parent by April 15 of a year. These periods of possession begin and end at 6:00 p.m.
    • For example, if a non-possessory parent defaults to July 1-31, the possessory parent can take one of the non-possessory parent’s first, third or fifth weekends in June (and possibly May or August depending on the child’s school calendar).
  • Cut into Non-Possessory Parent’s Extended Summer: The possessory parent can cut into the non-possessory parent’s elected or defaulted extended summer and take one of the first, third of fifth weekends beginning and ending at 6:00 p.m., provided that the possessory parent picks up and drops off the children and that it does not conflict with Father’s Day. This possessory parent must give written notice of this to the non-possessory parent by April 15 of a year or give notice within two weeks of the intended weekend after April 16. These periods of possession begin and end at 6:00 p.m.
    • For example, if a non-possessory parent defaults to July 1-31, the possessory parent can come in during any weekend in July beginning and ending at 6:00 p.m. If a non-possessory parent designates his or her own time and does not take the default, the possessory conservator still can come in during his or her time and take away one of the non-possessory parent’s weekends.

Holidays in a Standard Possession Order

Holidays in the Standard Possession Order and Expanded Standard Possession Order remain the same regardless of distance between the child and the non-possessory parent.

  • Christmas: The possessory parent will have Christmas in odd-numbered years and the non-possessory parent will have Christmas in even-numbered years. Christmas possession begins at the time the child’s school is dismissed for the Christmas holiday and ends on December 28th at noon. At that time, the parent who did not have the child for Christmas will begin possession on December 28th at noon and keep the child until 6:00 p.m. on the day before school resumes. Effectively what this does is ensures that every other year, a parent will have Christmas and the other parent will have New Years.
  • Thanksgiving: The possessory parent will have Thanksgiving in even-numbered years and the non-possessory parent will have Thanksgiving in odd-numbered years. The Thanksgiving holiday begins when school is dismissed for the Thanksgiving Holiday and ends on the Sunday following thanksgiving at 6:00 p.m. What this does is ensures that if a parent has Thanksgiving, that parent will not have Christmas, but they will have New Years. Then next year, it will be vice versa.
  • Child’s Birthday: Whichever parent does not already have possession of the child on the child’s birthday, can have access to the child on their birthday from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m as long as that parent picks up and returns the child to the other parent’s residence. If the child has minor siblings, the parent not in possession of the child has the option to include the child’s minor siblings as well from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.
  • Father’s Day: The father of a child will have Father’s Day weekend of every year. The weekend begins at 6:00 p.m. on the Friday before Father’s Day and ends at 8:00 a.m. on the Monday after Father’s Day. Unless the father of the child is not already in possession of the child, he shall pick up and return the children to the other parent’s residence.
  • Mother’s Day: The mother of a child will have Mother’s Day weekend of every year. The weekend begins at the time the child’s school is dismissed on the Friday before Mother’s Day and ends at the time the child’s school resumes after Mother’s Day. Unless the mother of the child is not already in possession of the child, she shall pick up and return the children to the other parent’s residence.

The holidays listed above are the standard holidays provided in a Standard Possession Order and Expanded Possession Order.

Parents, however, have the ability to agree and add additional holidays such as:

  • A Parent’s Birthday
  • Easter
  • Halloween
  • or any other holiday celebrated by your family.

If you would like more information on how to customize holidays in your possession order, reach out to us at Hunt Law Firm.

Why an SPO? Must it be an SPO?

According to Texas Family Code Section 153.252, there is a presumption that the standard possession order provides the “reasonable minimum possession of a child” for a parent and is in the best interest of the child. However, this presumption is rebuttable. A trial court has the discretion to create or approve a different possession and access order if it finds that the standard possession order is unworkable or inappropriate given the circumstances.

Even if the court determines that the standard possession order will not work for the parties, the Texas Family Code requires that a court render an order that grants periods of possession of the child as similar as possible to the standard possession order. If a court deviates from the standard possession order, the court has to make written findings listing the specific reasons for the change upon the request of a party.

In deciding whether to order a schedule that differs from the standard possession order, the Court must consider the guidelines set out in the standard possession order and the following factors:

  • The age, developmental status, circumstances, needs, and best interest of the children;
  • The circumstances of the managing conservator and of the parent named as a possessory conservator; and
  • Any other relevant factor.

For example, a few reasons why a court may decide the standard possession order is inappropriate include:

  • A parent’s work schedule
  • Year-round school years
  • Or the age of the child is less than three years of age.

A court may find a more restrictive or supervised schedule is required for a parent who struggles with alcoholism if he or she previously put the child at risk. A court may prohibit overnight visitation for a parent of a severely disabled child if the child requires substantial care and the parent has never been involved in the care for the child.

“Step-up” Possession and Access Schedules

Sometimes, courts order a “step-up” possession and access schedule, in which a party spend a few hours with a child for a certain number of visits before they are able to have an overnight or weekend visit. Then, once the party complies with the initial schedule, he or she is able to exercise possession and access according to the standard possession order. These “step up” schedules are very common when a child is under the age of three or the child does not have a close relationship with the party wishing to exercise possession.

Alternatively, a court can approve a unique possession and access order for children based on an agreement of the parties. There are numerous options available when the parties can brainstorm and collaborate to make a possession and access order that works best for them and their children.

If you still have questions regarding the Standard Possession Order, let us know by scheduling a consultation with us at Hunt Law Firm.

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