Child visitation made simple by the Law Office of Bryan Fagan
Issues surrounding visitation and Standard Possession Orders (SPO) are among the most litigated in the family courts of Texas. When it comes to visitation orders in Texas there are two parts that you need to be aware of: standard possession and orders and those that are custom created by you and your co-parent. There are benefits to having a Standard Possession Order an order that is more fluid and based on the circumstances of your child and your family. What works best for you all is what you should agree to in your divorce or child custody negotiations. Feeling pressured to do something because it worked out for a family member or friend is not necessarily a good thing to move forward based on. Families are unique, and yours is no exception.
When you create an order based on the Standard Possession Order for visitation it is presumed that you and your co-parent have done so in the best interests of your child. As with anything in the world of Texas family law, however, one-size-fits may not work well for you and your family. For that reason, you and your co-parent may determine that a custom possession schedule for your child works better than a standard possession order as contained in the Texas Family Code.
Therefore having the advice of an experienced family law attorney in your divorce or child custody case is so important to your overall success. Advice and perspective are important qualities to have in a divorce or child custody case but those aren’t even the most important aspects of having representation in a family law case. Rather, being able to learn the basics of family law in Texas and how to apply those lessons on a practical level are what the attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan pride us on when it comes to assisting clients in their family law cases.
When you are looking for representation in your divorce case you need to find an attorney who has the heart of a teacher. This means that your attorney should be comfortable explaining the situation, the law, or your choices to you in a way that makes sense. It is not beneath an attorney to teach. Rather, an attorney must teach you as well as advocate for you. The best way to find out whether your attorney is right for you is to ask questions in consultation with him or her. Our office offers free of charge consultations for prospective clients. Here, you can ask questions that are specifically tailored to your situation and can find out answers which can lead you to make better decisions for yourself and your family.
The last thing that you want to do in a divorce or child custody case is to make decisions that are spur of the moment or otherwise not guided by the facts or circumstances of your case. Making assumptions can be necessary at times but overall, you should feel like you have been guided to a decision through meaningful deliberation with the assistance of an attorney.
The Standard Possession Order in Texas
When we talk about a Standard Possession Order or SPO for short, if you and your co-parent live less than 100 miles from one another then whichever of you is the non-custodial parent (the parent with whom the child does not reside primarily) will have possession of the child on the first, third and fifth weekends of each month. Those weekend periods of possession begin typically at 6:00 p.m. on Friday and end at 6:00 p.m. on Sunday. A shorter period of possession is also available for this parent each Thursday evening from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. This shorter period allows for a non-custodial parent to have a weekly dinner with the child regardless of which parent has possession the following weekend.
For many families, the predictability and stability provided by a standard possession order are exactly what they need coming off a difficult family law case. You may feel like your entire routine has been torn apart due to the family law case that is hopefully on its way to completion. Or you may be worried about what you are seeing in your family as you begin a family law case in terms of time with your children being impacted significantly.
If you and your co-parent live more than 100 miles apart then the non-custodial parent can choose between the first, third, and fifth weekends of the month or a single weekend each month on which to exercise their visitation rights. Keep in mind that depending on your schedule, the needs of your children, and the specific distance between you and your children you may not be able to see your children on the first, third, and fifth weekends of each month even if you want to. For example, if you live in El Paso and your kids live in Houston it probably is not realistic for you to be able to see them three weekends per month. The costs and time commitment associated with that are probably more than you can take on.
Instead, choosing one weekend per month may be the more practical option for you to choose. Bear in mind that if you select an option for visitation that you cannot fulfill then that is something that can hurt you. Missing weekends frequently with your kids not only hurt your relationship with them but puts you in a situation where your co-parent can file an enforcement case against you where he or she asks for a court to hold you accountable for not adhering to the terms of your child custody orders. That means the potential for fines and other punishments that can be handed down by a court.
The Standard Possession Order is favored by family court judges due to its consistency and stability- at least in theory. Please bear in mind that just because a lot of judges like to utilize a Standard Possession Order does not mean that it is the best for you or your family. Rather, if you and your family have questions about what to do in your situation then you need representation in your divorce or child custody case. Having an attorney is not only helpful when you are in the courtroom but also when you are attempting to learn more about the law and how your family's circumstances will function within the case itself. For that, do not rely on secondhand information or assumptions that you had learned about from a friend or family member. You need and deserve specific information about your exact circumstances. This is where an experienced family law attorney can help you and your family.
Expanded Standard Possession Order
Depending upon your circumstances and that of your co-parent, you all may be well-suited to select an expanded Standard Possession Order as a visitation schedule with your child. Under this plan, the non-custodial parent will be able to have visitation with your child on the first, third, and fifth weekends of each month beginning on Thursday at the time school is dismissed or 6:00 p.m. until Sunday at 6:00 p.m. or whatever time school begins on the following Monday morning.
Expanded Standard Possession Orders are not a far-fetched dream if you are likely going to be a non-custodial parent. Many custodial parents will attempt to intimidate a noncustodial parent by telling him or her that they aren't even going to get overnight visitation for this or that issue. That can be enough to push you into a corner and to feel like you are being overly aggressive in asking for even standard possession. The reality is that unless there is something like drug use, a history of CPS involvement, etc. then a standard possession order should be seen as a baseline for child custody purposes. You should pursue more time with your children if that is what you want and what you think is in their best interests.
Remember that all these types of possession orders can be customized for your family. It is not something where you must go with the one-size-fits-all approach to child custody and possession. There are so many factors in play when it comes to possession and visitation that you cannot simply copy and paste what you found in the Texas Family Code and assume that it is going to work for your family. Rather, you may need to be a bit more discerning and engage more wholeheartedly in negotiation with your Co-parent due to the circumstances that you find yourself in as a family.
An interesting scenario could arise where you and your child live very close to one another. If you have chosen to live in the same neighborhood as your child, then your travel time is going to be much less than it might ordinarily be for other families in your particular situation. As a result, you may be able to engage in much more creative planning for your possession schedule than another family might be who lives further apart. The more logistically simple you can make your living situation after a divorce or child custody case the more options you will have to creatively engage with your Co-parent in negotiation on a possession schedule.
Visitation Schedules for Holidays
You and your co-parent will share holiday possession of your child, alternating on odd/even years. For example, you would have possession of your child on Thanksgiving in even years while your co-parent would have Christmas in even years. Odd years would be the reverse schedule. The most notable holidays covered by a standard possession order include Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Spring Break. However, you can personalize your order to contain whichever holidays you and your co-parent choose.
Spring Break is usually rotated between you and your co-parent each year if the two of you reside within 100 miles of one another. If you all live more than 100 miles apart, then the non-custodial parent would have the right to possess your child every Spring Break.
Holiday visitation schedules can be difficult to negotiate because of the emotion associated with these times of the year. The thought of losing any amount of possession time with your children during the holidays can be enough for some parents to simply lose all sense of reality When it comes to this subject. You should consider the best interests of your children as well as how feasible it is for you to be able to manage the holidays together in a co-parenting circumstance.
Summer Visitation and Possession under a Standard Possession Order
The non-custodial parent is awarded a period of possession lasting for 30 days under a Standard Possession Order. Notice of the intent to take advantage of this period of possession must be provided to the custodial parent by April 1st. A specific thirty-day period in the summer must be disclosed in this notice. If a specific period is not disclosed, then the default period begins on July 1 and ends on July 31. The custodial parent may select one weekend visitation holiday during these 30 days so long as he or she provides notice to the other parent by April 15th.
When you and your co-parent live more than 100 miles from one another, the non-custodial parent receives 42 days of possession each summer. Notice of the 42 days of possession must be provided by the non-custodial parent to the custodial parent by April 1st. Note, please, that the 42 days of possession can be divided into two parts. The default period of possession, if this notice is not adhered to, would be June 15th through July 27th. Two weekends (to be exercised not in successive weekends) can be selected by the custodial parent for possession of the child during this period so long as notice is provided to the non-custodial parent by April 15th.
How does possession work when the child is under the age of three?
There is a special "under three" provision in Texas that can be added to the Standard Possession Order. Given the age of your child, you and your co-parent may choose to include a step-up provision that allows for the non-custodial parent to able to have increased ties with your child based on the age of him or her. No overnight visits would be covered initially given the age and maturity of the child. Overnight visits would be a part of the possession order once your child reaches age three. Standard possession would be the norm at age three which includes overnight visitation.
However, if you or a father is concerned about losing time with your child who is under the age of three then you should consider the role that you have played and being able to help raise that child. These types of scenarios where the non-custodial parent does not have overnight visits with the child until he or she is over the age of three are typically for those parents who have had little to no contact with the child throughout their life. Of course, if you are a parent who has played a large role in the raising of your child to this point in their life then this may not be appropriate for you. It is likely against the best interest of your child for you to have limited visitation.
Why may a customized visitation schedule work better for you and your child?
The Standard Possession Order is the hallmark of Texas possession schedules, but it will not work for every family. If you have an atypical work schedule, your co-parent has an atypical work schedule, or your child has a special need then you all may need to think creatively about a schedule that suits your family's needs better. Examples include week-on-week off periods of possession which rotate for each parent, as well as 2-3-2 periods of possession where each parent will have multiple days in a row of possession each week of the year not counting holiday periods.
Under a 2-3-2 period of possession, one parent will have possession on Monday and Tuesday, the other parent has possession on Wednesday and Thursday while the parents will alternate possession on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. You and your family can choose your possession schedule or select the Standard Possession Schedule depending on your specific needs.
All these subjects in today's blog post can be made simpler and more manageable when you have an experienced family law attorney guiding you. If you have questions or concerns about what you have read today, please talk with an experienced family law attorney before you go any further with your case.
Questions about the material contained in today’s blog post? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan
If you have any questions about the material contained in today's blog post, please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. Our licensed family law attorneys offer free-of-charge consultations six days a week in person, over the phone, and via video. These consultations are a great way for you to learn more about the world of Texas family law as well as about how your family's circumstances may be impacted by the filing of a divorce or child custody case.