What is Standard Possession Order & Standard Visitation 2021
During these times of uncertainty, many parents may be concern with the Standard Possession Order. Do the same rules apply or are the courts creating different laws due to the current pandemic we are facing?
Standard possession order sets the schedule for each parents time with the child. Possession of your Child should not change due to the closure of schools, specifically, whether or not this is what you expected or what you wanted.
The Standard Possession Order (SPO) (Texas Family Code § 153.252) is intended to protect the best interests of children when determining non-custodial possession and access, as well as what weekdays, weekends, and holidays both the custodial and non-custodial parent can have with their children.
Frequently, the SPO may be used as a launching point for negotiations and then altered to account for individual circumstances, but generally takes one of two forms when it is used for school-age children and younger children.
Why a Standard Possession Order is Used in Child Custody Cases
When courts issue decisions regarding child custody, meaning they designate where a child will primarily live (with a custodial or primary parent), they may also need to address matters of visitation, which is referred to as possession and access to the child under Texas law. Often, the court will refer to the Standard Possession Order (SPO) when doing so.
Because the Standard Possession Order can seem like a complex or foreign topic for many parents, our legal team wants to provide some important information to help you understand how they are used in Texas family law cases.
Standard Visitation in Texas for Children Older Than 3
The Standard Possession Order is for children older than the age of 3. One parent has custody while the other has visitation. While the custodial parent will have children for the bulk of a week, non-custodial parents awarded an SPO will usually have their child at predetermined times, such as:
- From 6:00 pm on alternating Fridays of the month, ending at 6:00 pm the following Sunday.
- Thursday visitation from 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm during the school year.
Standard Possession Orders – Summers & Holidays
The Standard Possession Order also addresses possession and access during the summer and certain holidays, which are special times of year that would warrant a departure from normal arrangements. The SPO for summer and holidays typically work as follows:
- Holidays – For major holidays, like Thanksgiving and Christmas, one parent will have possession and access to the children during Thanksgiving, while the other parent would get Christmas. This is then switched, vice-versa, the following year. For example, a parent who has Thanksgiving one year while the other parent has Christmas, would switch to having Christmas the next year. When major holidays also coincide with holiday vacations from school, such as Christmas or winter break, the Standard Possession Order breaks the vacation into two halves so that neither parent goes the full vacation without substantial time with the children.
- Special Holidays – Special holidays are also taken into account in the Standard Possession Orders. That means possession orders will give holidays like Father’s Day Weekend to the father and the weekend of Mother’s Day to the mother. It is important to note that other cultural or religious holidays important to the family can be addressed.
- Summer Vacation – Unless there are additional terms or written notices, possession orders typically provide non-custodial parents with the option to designate up to 30-days as their time for possession and access during their child’s summer break from school. However, non-custodial parents must submit notices for summer vacation designations on either April 1st and April 15th, depending on the year, otherwise the SPO will generally give the month of July to the non-custodial parent.
- Birthdays – The Standard Possession Order ensures that each parent is able to spend time with the child during their birthday by providing parents who do not have possession and access to their children on the child’s birthday have the right to visitation for two hours between 6:00 pm and 8:00 pm.
Standard Visitation in Texas for Children Under 3
In cases involving younger children, primarily infants and those without older siblings of school-age, Texas family courts often take several factors into consideration when determining a standard possession order. These factors include, among others:
- How possession of school age children is transferred, if applicable
- Each parent’s availability to care for children during time when they would otherwise have rights to visitation
- Each parent’s emotional, mental, and physical health, as well as their ability to care for children
- Any distress children might experience when separated from a parent for longer periods of time
SPOs and Long-Distances Between Parents
Standard Possession Orders are often modified by Texas family courts when parents live long distances apart, typically 100 miles or more. In these situations, a Standard Possession Order may call for the following:
- Rather than possession and access on alternating weekends, a non-custodial parent may have possession of children for one weekend of the month, and that parent must provide at least 14 days’ notice designating the weekend they plan to spend with their children.
- Non-custodial parents may be granted longer periods of time during summer, typically 42 days rather than 30 used in most cases. They may also be granted longer periods of time during other vacations or breaks from school.SAMPLE COURT ORDERS
Order in Suit Affecting the Parent-Child Relationship
Final Decree of Divorce
Child Support Review Order
Possession and Access OrderStandard Possession Order Calender 2021 -EnglishAbout the AuthorMichael Busby Jr. is a divorce and family law attorney who practices in Harris County Texas and the counties that surround Harris County. He has been in practice for over 10 years and has tried over 100 cases. He is familiar with the policy and procedures of the Houston Texas Divorce Courts. Our office is open until 8:30 p.m. on Wednesdays and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. for working folks. Please call with your family law or divorce questions for divorce Houston Texas.
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Houston, Texas 77036