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Family Law

Updated:

February 17, 2022

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Texas Child Custody: What Is a Standard Possession Order?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2LzYpFYlg0c

Child custody is perhaps the most contentious issue in Texas family law. A standard custody agreement in Texas is considered the ideal child custody arrangement, provided it is consistent with the best interests of the child because it is based on an agreement between the parents. If the parents cannot agree, a Texas court will issue a Standard Possession Order (SPO). An SPO in Texas can be quite rigid if the parents cannot agree on custody.

What Is a Standard Possession Order in Texas?

In Texas child custody law, a Standard Possession Order allows the parents to determine who has possession of the child as long as they both agree and the child is at least three years old. If they don’t agree, possession of the child depends largely on how far away the parents live from each other.

If the Parents Live Within 50 Miles of Each Other

Texas law determines possession of the child according toTexas Family Code 153.371, which involves a rather complex set of rules. The custodial parent gets more time with the child, especially when school is in session.

If the Parents Live Within 100 Miles of Each Other

If the parents live between 50 and 100 miles of each other, the non-custodial parent gets possession of the child:

  • On the first, third, and fifth weekend of every month;
  • On Thursday evenings for the duration of the school year;
  • On alternating holidays; and
  • For 30 consecutive days during summer vacation.

Under Texas child visitation law, the court can modify this schedule under certain circumstances.

If the Parents Live More than 100 Miles from Each Other

If the child’s parents live more than 100 miles apart, the non-custodial parent gets possession of the child:

  • For one to three weekends per month;
  • On alternating Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays;
  • During spring break; and
  • For 42 days during summer vacation.

Under this circumstance, the non-custodial parent is not entitled to a mid-week visit with the child. 

Standard Visitation in Texas for Children Under 3

standard custody agreement texas

A legal presumption applies to a standard possession order in Texas. The presumption is that such an order is in the child’s best interests if the child is at least three years old. Although you can overcome this presumption, you will have to prove that it shouldn’t apply in your case.

If the child is not yet three, however, the presumption does not apply. The court will determine the visitation schedule (or approve the parents’ agreement) based on factors such as the following:

  • The parent’s ability to care for the child;
  • Each parent’s availability to care for children during certain times (taking into account a parent’s work schedule, for example);
  • Each parent’s relative physical, emotional, and mental health; and
  • Any separation anxiety that the child may experience from custody arrangements.

The parents can agree to follow the standard possession order for older children, as long as it is in the best interests of the child to do so.

What Is an Extended Standard Possession Order in Texas?

An extended standard possession order is the consequence of a change in Texas family law. This new law gives non-custodial parents who live within 50 miles of their children more time with their children. 

Under this new scheme, the non-custodial parent’s possession of the child begins on Thursday prior to the first, third, and fifth weekends of the month. It begins at either the time school lets out or 6 pm., and it continues until whenever school resumes on Monday morning. The non-custodial parent is also entitled to overnight possession of the child on Thursdays of the weeks when the parent does not have weekend possession. 

Standard Possession Orders - Summers & Holidays

For school-aged children, summers and holidays represent a break in their normal schedules. For this reason, custody arrangements need to be adjusted to reflect this break in continuity. A standard Texas child custody order works like this:

  • The parents’ possession rights alternate between the major holidays of Thanksgiving and Christmas. One year, the custodial parent will have possession on Thanksgiving, while the non-custodial parent will have possession on Christmas. The next year, the schedule will be reversed – the custodial parent will have possession on Christmas, while the non-custodial parent will have possession on Thanksgiving.
  • The non-custodial parent will have the right to visit the child on their birthday, between 6 pm and 8 pm.
  • A standard custody agreement will account for special holidays. The child will spend Mother’s Day with the mother, for example, and Father’s Day with the father. The court can also arrange for special holidays such as Hanukkah or Kwanzaa if they are important to the family or at least one parent. 
  • The non-custodial parent has the right to possession of the child for 30 consecutive days during the child’s summer break. Without notification, the court will set these dates as July 1 to July 31. If the non-custodial parent wishes to modify this schedule, they must notify the court by April 1 or April 15, depending on the year. The custodial parent can schedule a weekend visitation during this time if they provide notice by April 15.
  • When the parents live more than 100 miles apart, the non-custodial parent gets possession for 42 days during the child’s summer break. The custodial parent can schedule two non-consecutive weekend visitations during this time if they notify the court by April 15.

The 2-2-3 Custody Schedule

texas child visitation law

The Texas standard order of possession is not written in stone. Many parents agree to an alternative standard visitation schedule, which is fine as long as it is consistent with the best interests of the child.

The “2-2-3” custody schedule is popular with many parents. One parent gets the child on Monday and Tuesday; the other parent gets the child on Wednesday and Thursday, and the parents alternate weekly on who has possession on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. This option offers the advantage of simplicity. It is not the only alternative arrangement, however — there are many other possible custody arrangements.   

SPOs and Long-Distances between Parents

A standard custody order in Texas can be flexible enough to adjust to a situation where the parents live more than 100 miles apart. Typically, a court will accomplish this by:

  • Reducing the frequency of weekends that the non-custodial parent has possession of the child (unless the parent provides at least two weeks’ advance notice);
  • Lengthening the period of possession during the child’s summer breaks (typically from 30 to 42 days); and 
  • Lengthening the non-custodial parent’s period of possession during other breaks from school, such as Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Cooperation between the parents can greatly enhance the flexibility of these arrangements.

What’s the Difference between a Texas Standard Possession Order (SPO) and an Expanded Standard Possession Order (ESPO)?

Following is a summary of the main differences between an SPO and an extended SPO when the parents live within 50 miles of each other.

Visitation Type Texas SPO Texas Extended (Expanded) SPO
Weekends 6 pm Friday to 6 pm Sunday on the first, third, and fifth weekends of the month. From the time school lets out on Friday until school resumes on Monday on the first, third, and fifth weekends of the month.
Thursday nights from 6 pm to 8 pm. From the time school is dismissed on Thursday until the time school resumes on Friday.
Spring break 6 pm the day school lets out until 6 pm the day school resumes; alternating between parents every other year. From the time school lets out for spring break until 6 pm the night before school resumes. Alternates annually between parents.
Thanksgiving break 6 pm the day school lets out until 6 pm Sunday; alternating annually between parents. From school dismissal for Thanksgiving break to 6 pm on Sunday, alternating annually between parents.
Christmas break during even-numbered years 6 pm the day school lets out until noon on December 28, alternating annually between parents. Pick up when school lets out for Christmas break, and drop off at noon on Dec. 28, alternating annually between parents.
Christmas break during odd-numbered years Pick up at noon on December 28 to the day before school resumes, alternating annually between parents. Pick up at noon on December 28 and drop off at 6 pm the day before school resumes.
Mother’s Day Mother picks up at 6 pm Friday and keeps the child until 6 pm on Mother’s Day. Mother picks up the child after school lets out on Friday and drops the child off at school on Monday immediately following Mother’s Day.
Father’s Day Father picks up at 6 pm Friday and keeps the child until 6 pm on Father’s Day. Father picks up the child on Friday before Father’s Day and returns the child at 8 am the Monday immediately following Father’s Day.
3-day holiday weekend Drop-off at 6 pm Monday. Drop-off at 8 am on Tuesday.

Brooks and Radchenko Can Help

The family law attorneys at Brooks & Radchenko are ready for action. Contact us immediately by calling 903-818-8681 or by contacting us online for a free consultation. The longer you wait, the more difficult your circumstances are likely to become.

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