If you are about to undertake a Divorce or Child Custody and have a child then you should be familiar with a Standard Possession Order and what it entails. Our State Legislature created the Standard Possession Order, or SPO, in order to help family law courts who have to work with parents to figure out when each parent will be able to have possession of their child after their divorce has been finalized.
If you and your spouse are able to settle upon your own possession order that suits you both better than a SPO then that is fine and even preferable to the SPO. However, the SPO is utilized by courts because it is believed to be in the best interest of the child because both parents are provided reasonable amounts of time.
Basis for the Standard Possession Order in the Texas Family Code
Our state law holds that frequent contact between child and parent is in the best interests of the child because it further strengthens the bond between the two and creates an environment where the child can develop well. The State does not want parents to get divorced or otherwise separate, either. This is part of the reason why you cannot file for divorce on a Monday and have the divorce finalized on the following Tuesday.
Our State has a built in waiting period wherein after you file for divorce the quickest the divorce can be finalized is 61 days later. Families that stick together tend to be less expensive for the State down the line, I suppose.
Does the SPO apply if you have a child under the age of three?
If you are like me and have a child or two under the age of three then this section is for you. An SPO is intended to apply only to children that are over the age of three. For those of you with children under three then a court need only to create a possession order that is age appropriate.
This means that bearing in mind the challenges of raising a child of this age a judge will need to ensure that both parents have an opportunity to foster the sort of long lasting relationship that we discussed in the previous paragraph. Of course, taking a child this young away from their home for even a weekend may be too much so a judge has a special challenge in this regard.
Once the child turns three then the judge may either order that a SPO go into effect or order something else based on the similar circumstances of your case. Again, if you and your spouse/the other parent are able to come up with a different possession order yourselves then by all means that is the best alternative. Reason being is that since you and the other parent know your child’s circumstances exponentially better than a judge will it makes sense that you both will be able to come up with an possession schedule that better suits everyone involved when compared to a judge.
What if a SPO does not work for your family?
In some instances a SPO will not work for a family. A judge will not cram a SPO down your throat if it is unreasonable to do so or if the evidence in your hearing or trial have shown that it will not work out for you and your family. We see this often with parents who work unorthodox hours.
An SPO is also based around the school calendar for most public schools in Texas. If your child attends home school or private school and the holiday/school schedules do not sync up with your child’s then it is unlikely that an SPO would be an appropriate means of establishing a possession schedule.
If a SPO does not work for you or your family then a judge will do their best to balance those specific needs and the Standard Possession Order and its key tenets in terms of dividing up possession between you and the other parent during the year. Whatever alternative methods of scheduling possession are agreed to a court will need to determine that they are in the best interests of your child.
Standard Possession for parents who live within 100 miles of one another
If you and your child’s other parent live within 100 miles of one another then the parent with whom the child does not primarily reside with will have the right to take possession of the child on the first, third and fifth weekends of every month from 6:00 p.m. on Friday to 6:00 p.m. on Sunday. These weekends can be extended by holidays as well that occur on Monday or Friday.
Thursday evenings from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. for the child are spent with whichever parent that your child does not live with primarily. This allows you or the other parent to have a night during the week to see the child and spend time with him or her.
Holiays such as Spring Break, Christmas and Thanksgiving are alternated between you and your child’s other parent. In no year may one parent have both Christmas Day and Thanksgiving unless that is agreed to between you and the other parent. Summer Vacation allows you to have a period of thirty days of possession of the child. The other parent may give notice of their intent to take one weekend during this thirty day time period if notice is provided by April 15.
Standard Possession for Parents who live more than 100 miles from one another
If you and the child’s other parent reside more than 100 miles from one another then the time what the non primary parent gets to spend with the child will likely be reduced. If your child does not reside with you primarily then you can choose to have possession of the child on the first, third and fifth weekends of each month or if that amount of travel will not work you can choose any weekend of the month to see your child provided that you give at least fourteen days of notice to the other parent. You must choose whichever option you want and then give notice to the other parent within 90 days of moving more than 100 miles away.
Christmas and Thanksgiving holidays are not affected by the distance that you reside from the other parent. Summer break allows you to have 42 instead of 30 days of possession of the child. Finally, you are awarded every Spring Break rather than every other Spring Break. The every Thursday form 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. time slot is removed as the travel required to take advantage of this time is unworkable in most situations based on distance.
Additional questions on the Standard Possession Order? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan
If you have any additional questions in regard to possession orders please contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. One of our licensed family law attorneys is available to meet with you six days a week at no charge to you. We would be honored to talk about your case with you and to answer any questions you may have.
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Other Articles you may be interested in:
- Texas Parental Visitation - Texas Standard Possession Orders in Harris and Montgomery County, Texas - Part 1
- Grandparent rights in Texas: Visitation and Preparing for a case
- A Divorced Parent's Guide to Summer Visitation in Texas
- Texas Child Visitation Enforcement
- Summer Visitation Basics for a Divorced Parent in Texas
- How Does Summertime Visitation Work for Divorced Parents in Texas?
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Law Office of Bryan Fagan | Houston, Texas Divorce Lawyers
The Law Office of Bryan Fagan routinely handles matters that affect children and families. If you have questions regarding Divorce, it's important to speak with one of our Houston, TX Child Divorce Lawyers right away to protect your rights.
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