Updated: Aug 3, 2022
In cases of divorce or otherwise, child custody is among the most important matters in family law. This is because the custody and visitation arrangements can entail significant modifications to the lives of the children, the parents, and everyone involved in the lives of the parents.
What's a Standard Possession Order?
In Texas, the law assumes that the “Standard Possession Order” is in the best interests of children aged three or more. The Standard Possession Order says that parents can have possession of their child at any time they are both in agreement.
The Standard Possession Order says that when parents aren't in agreement, the parent who is not custodial has the right to possess the child during the time set out within Texas Family Code 153.3171 if the parents reside in proximity of 50 miles of each other.
non-custodial parent has the right to possession:
WITHIN 50 MILES
WITHIN 51-100 MILES
MORE THAN100 MILES
Why is a Standard Possession Order used in child Custody Cases?
Suppose courts decide on the custody of children, which means they decide where children are expected to reside (with the primary or custodial parent). In that case, they might be required to decide on visitation matters. This is described as access and possession to the child as per Texas law. Most often, the court will refer to the Standard Possession Order (SPO) when making such a decision.
The Standard Visitation Policy in Texas for Children older than 3
The Standard Possession Order for children older than three years of age gives one parent custody, while the other has regular visitation rights. The custodial parents have the children for majority of the week, while the non-custodial parents who are granted an SPO are able to visit their child during predetermined times, for example:
Beginning at 6:00 pm on alternate Fridays during the month, concluding at 6:00 pm on the next Sunday.
Thursday visits between 6:00 and 8 in the evening during the school term.
Standard Possession Orders for Summers and Holidays
It is important to note that the Standard Possession Order also addresses access and possession during the holiday season, certain times of the year, and holidays, which are unique periods of the year that necessitate a deviation from the usual arrangements. The SPO for holidays and summer generally follows the following format:
Holidays: (Major holidays) Christmas and Thanksgiving. One parent will be granted possession of and access to the children at Thanksgiving, whereas the other parent gets Christmas. Then, the two parents switch in the next year.
For example, a family member having Thanksgiving in one year while another parent has Christmas will switch to Christmas the following year. Suppose major holidays coincide with school holidays, for example, winter break or Christmas. In that case, The Standard Possession Order breaks the vacation into two portions to ensure that neither parent gets without spending a significant amount of time with their children.
Special Holidays: Also, special holidays are considered in Standard Possession Orders. Possession orders can allow holidays such as Father's Day Weekend to the father and weekends like Mother's Day to the mother. It is crucial to remember that any other religious or cultural holidays important to families are also addressed and discussed.
July Vacation: Unless additional conditions and or written notifications are present, the possession order generally gives parents who are not custodial the option of designating up to 30 days as their period of possession and access to their children's summer vacation. Parents who do not have custody of their children are required to file notices for the summer vacation dates on April 1st or April 15th, based on the time of year. Otherwise, the SPO typically grants all of the month of July to the parent with no custody rights.
Birthdays: The Standard Possession Order ensures that each parent can spend time with their child by allowing parents that do not have possession of or access to their children on their birthday to visit for two hours (6:00 pm to 8:00 pm).
Standard Visits to Texas for children younger than 3
For cases involving children younger than infants and with no older siblings of school age, Texas family courts often look at various factors in determining a standard property order within Texas.
These include among them:
How will the school-aged children be transferred, if necessary
The parents' availability to take care of the children during times when they otherwise would have rights to visitation
Every parent's emotional, mental, and physical health and their capacity to take care of children
The accountability of the child’s distress when separated from their parents for extended times
Expanded Possession Order
From September 1st, 2021, there's now a standard possession agreement for parents that live less than 50 miles from each other. This newly issued possession order is referred to as the expanded possession order. An expanded custody order permits parents who are not custodial to have time with their children starting off school on a Thursday until the time they start school on the following Monday. This gives the non-custodial parent more time to spend time with their children. Legislation has been working towards this in the past few years to allow more time with children of the parent who is not custodial.
Standard Possession Orders
The principal function of a typical possession decree is to determine each parent's visitation rights and custody schedule and make sure that it is legally binding. An SPO is often referred to as the "default" arrangement in Texas. The SPO, as defined by the Texas Family Code, arranges which days and which holidays the child will be exchanged at between the parents, as well as any specific rules in cases where parents reside within 100 miles of each other. A typical scenario for SPO children will spend three weekends a month with the parent. The first, third, and fifth weekend of every month, and one evening on a weekday with the parent who is not custodial during the school year.
Texas Standard Possession Expanded Order
A modified standard possession order allows parents who are not custodial with more hours with their children. The parent who is not custodial gets an additional overnight visit on Thursdays and doesn't have to hand over possession of their child to the custodial parent throughout the school year up to the following Monday,
after the regular weekend possession.
A modified standard possession order can be selected at the discretion of the parent who is non-custodial. The E-SPO is similar to the regular SPO but with one difference, the time of the non-custodial parent on weekends and weekdays is adjusted to ensure that the time of the parent who is not custodial is extended to accommodate the child's requirements.
According to Texas Law, SPOs and E-SPOs are typically employed as the first option for spouses who can or won't agree to an arrangement of their own. This is because spouses are often resentful that they rely on the notion that one parent is the best at taking care of their children while the other is the breadwinner. Because this isn't a scenario that is universally applicable to spouses, many choose the creation of their custody and visitation orders. Customizing the arrangement can be more flexible to parents' work schedules, distances between parents, and the child's demands.