A BRIEF Q&A ON STANDARD POSSESSION ORDERS FOR TEXAS PARENTS

The majority of Texas custody orders include a standard possession order (SPO) that specifies the time each parent will spend with the child. This order is the required custody and visitation schedule when you and your former spouse can’t agree on one of your own. It indicates, among other things:

  • Where the child will spend the holidays;
  • Where exchanges will take place;
  • Special provisions for parents who reside more than 100 miles apart.

Q. What are the terms of the basic SPO?

A. The basic SPO permits the noncustodial parent to have possession of the child at the following times:

  • Every Thursday night, during the school year, for a specified number of hours;
  • The first, third, and fifth weekends of every month;
  • A minimum of one month in the summer;
  • Alternating holidays.

Q: What is the difference between possession and access?

A: “Possession” refers to seeing your child in person and having them with you. It is essentially a court term for visitation or parenting time. “Access” refers to communication and interaction, such as via text, phone, Social Media, and Skype. In most instances, you and your former spouse have joint parental rights and responsibilities, although the the custodial parent is usually the one who determines where the child lives.

Q: When are parents obligated to follow the SPO?

A: While you and your ex are allowed to come up with your own parenting schedule, the moment you both fail to agree on its terms is when you are legally obligated to start following the SPO. If one of you suddenly decides to stop following it, the other parent can apply to the court to have it enforced.

Q: What if the parents live less than 100 miles apart?

A: If you and your ex live less than 100 miles apart, the standard parenting time schedule currently applies for the noncustodial parent:

  • Every first, third, and fifth weekend;
  • One week night per week (Thursdays) during the school year;
  • Half of all holidays (because they alternate);
  • Extended summer breaks (usually one month)

Q: What if the parents live over 100 miles apart?

A: When there is a greater distance between parental residences, there are different options for weekend visitation. The noncustodial parent can select the first, third, or fifth weekend of each month or opt for one weekend per month of their choice, provided they give at least two weeks’ notice beforehand. The child also gets extended visitation with the noncustodial parent during every spring and summer break.

Q: How do holidays work?

A: With the Thanksgiving holiday, for example, the custodial parent will have the child in even-numbered years (e.g. 2016) while the noncustodial parent has visitation in odd-numbered years, such as 2017.

With Christmas holidays during even-numbered years, the custodial parent has the child during the first half of the holiday period (the day school is dismissed until December 28 at noon) while the noncustodial parent has him or her from December 28 at noon until 6:00 p.m. the day before school resumes. During odd-numbered years, the arrangement reverses.

If the mother does not have possession of the child on Mother’s Day, she can have a period of parenting time on that date. Fathers enjoy the same privilege on Father’s Day.

Children have the right to quality time with both parents, and at Alexandra Geczi, PLLC, we will work with you to develop a parenting schedule that benefits everyone involved. For more information, please contact us today.

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