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What is Standard Possession? (2016)

Mar 07 2016

The overwhelming majority of Texas child custody cases wind-up having a so-called “Standard Possession Order” (SPO) put into place. But, understanding what that order says can be difficult, because it is long, and is written in technical terms. This article discusses, in common language, what that order does.

Parents Can Agree to Possession That Works For Them & Their Children

It is important to note at the outset that the parents can choose to agree to their own possession schedule, rather than going by the terms of possession laid-out in the Standard Possession Order. In fact, the Texas Standard Possession Order expressly provides that its schedule apply only when the parties cannot agree to a possession schedule between themselves. When those possession and access agreements are made by a child’s parents, the possession schedule usually works better, and is less stressful for the parents and the children. So, I encourage you to consider whether you and your child’s other parent can come-up with a fair, workable arrangement for when each of you will have possession of your child or children.

Introduction

The possession schedule laid-out within the Texas Standard Possession Order provides a schedule for parents who reside within 100 miles of each other, and an alternate one which may be chosen when those parents reside more than 100 miles away from one another. It, also, provides a holiday schedule. Let’s take a look at each of those sections.

Parents Who Live Within 100 Miles of Each Other.

  1. When the parents live this close to one another, the parent who does not have the primary possession of the children, has the right to have the children on the 1st, 3rd, and 5th Friday of each month (when there is a 5th Friday in a month), and keep them either until either the immediately following Sunday, or until school resumes. The Order can say that this weekend period begins either when the children’s school is dismissed for the day, or at 6:00 p.m. Be sure that your Order specifies which one of these applies to your children.
  2. Also, this parent would usually have the right to have the children on each Thursday during the school year. This period of possession begins either when the child’s school dismisses, or at 6:00 p.m. It ends either at 8:00 p.m. on that Thursday, or when school resumes on Friday. Once again, be sure that your Order specifies which one of these applies to your children.
  3. Additionally, this parent has the right to possession of the children during Spring Breaks in even-numbered years; for 30 days in the Summer; and, for the first part of the school’s Winter Break in even-numbered years; and, for Thanksgiving, as well as the second part of the school’s Winter Break in odd-numbered years. The Summer possession can be in either one or two periods of time. The parent getting this period is required to designate each year when he or she would like for the 30-day period to begin and end. Otherwise, this period runs from July 1-July 31.
  4. The parent who does have primary possession of the children has the right to have the children for one weekend during the other parent’s 30 days of Summer Access, and for another weekend during the Summer, outside of the other parent’s 30-day Summer Access Period, when the other parent would otherwise have the right to possession of the child.
  5. The parent who would otherwise not have the children, has the right to have them from 6:00-8:00 p.m on a child’s birthday, provided that he or she picks up the children, and returns them.

6.. The parent having Primary Possession also has the right to have possession of the children at all times not awarded to the other parent.

  1. Parents Who Live More Than 100 Miles Away From Each Other
  2. When the parents live this distance from each other, the parent who does not have primary possession of the child may choose to keep his/her weekend possession on the 1st, 3rd, and 5th weekends of each month, or may choose to have the right to have the children on any one (1) weekend each month that he chooses (s/he must give proper advance notice each month of which weekend he or she wants to have).
  3. If this parent chooses to be able to designate the one (1) weekend per month when s/he will have possession, then this parent does not have any right to Thursday possession of the children.
  4. This parent has the right to have the children on each Spring break.
  5. This parent’s Summer Access is extended to forty-two days, rather than 30 days.
  6. This parent’s Holiday access remains the same; i.e., and, for the first part of the school’s Winter Break in even-numbered years; and, for Thanksgiving, as well as the second part of the school’s Winter Break in odd-numbered years.
  7. The parent who would otherwise not have the children, has the right to have them from 6:00-8:00 p.m on a child’s birthday, provided that he or she picks up the children, and returns them.
  8. The parent who does have primary possession of the children has the right to have the children for two (2) weekends, occurring during the other parent’s forty-two days of Summer Access, and for another 21 days straight during the Summer, outside of the other parent’s 42-day Summer Access Period.

General terms and Conditions

These terms deal with picking-up, and dropping off the children, along with returning their personal items, and notice requirements. A discussion of these terms is beyond the scope of this article.

The actual text of those terms is:

“The court shall order the following general terms and conditions of possession of a child to apply without regard to the distance between the residence of a parent and the child:

(1) the managing conservator (the parent having primary possession) shall surrender the child to the possessory conservator (the parent not having primary possession) at the beginning of each period of the possessory conservator's possession at the residence of the managing conservator;

(2) if the possessory conservator elects to begin a period of possession at the time the child's school is regularly dismissed, the managing conservator shall surrender the child to the possessory conservator at the beginning of each period of possession at the school in which the child is enrolled;

(3) the possessory conservator shall be ordered to do one of the following:

(A) the possessory conservator shall surrender the child to the managing conservator at the end of each period of possession at the residence of the possessory conservator; or

(B) the possessory conservator shall return the child to the residence of the managing conservator at the end of each period of possession, except that the order shall provide that the possessory conservator shall surrender the child to the managing conservator at the end of each period of possession at the residence of the possessory conservator if:

(i) at the time the original order or a modification of an order establishing terms and conditions of possession or access the possessory conservator and the managing conservator lived in the same county, the possessory conservator's county of residence remains the same after the rendition of the order, and the managing conservator's county of residence changes, effective on the date of the change of residence by the managing conservator; or

(ii) the possessory conservator and managing conservator lived in the same residence at any time during a six–month period preceding the date on which a suit for dissolution of the marriage was filed and the possessory conservator's county of residence remains the same and the managing conservator's county of residence changes after they no longer live in the same residence, effective on the date the order is rendered;

(4) if the possessory conservator elects to end a period of possession at the time the child's school resumes, the possessory conservator shall surrender the child to the managing conservator at the end of each period of possession at the school in which the child is enrolled;

(5) each conservator shall return with the child the personal effects that the child brought at the beginning of the period of possession;

(6) either parent may designate a competent adult to pick up and return the child, as applicable; a parent or a designated competent adult shall be present when the child is picked up or returned;

(7) a parent shall give notice to the person in possession of the child on each occasion that the parent will be unable to exercise that parent's right of possession for a specified period;

(8) written notice, including notice provided by electronic mail or facsimile, shall be deemed to have been timely made if received or, if applicable, postmarked before or at the time that notice is due; and

(9) if a conservator's time of possession of a child ends at the time school resumes and for any reason the child is not or will not be returned to school, the conservator in possession of the child shall immediately notify the school and the other conservator that the child will not be or has not been returned to school.”

No Order can provide for every circumstance that may arise regarding parents and children. The Standard Possession Order attempts to put a structure in place that will resolve disputes about when each parent has the right to have possession of their children. If the parents are able to communicate with one another, and co-parent their children, then the schedule that they come-up with will, almost certainly, work better for them than the one-size-fits-all approach of the Texas Standard Possession Order.

Be sure to check-out the other blog posts that we have on this site, such as “How To Help Your Children Survive Divorce” or “How To Win Your Child Custody Case.”

And, be sure to sign-up for our Mailing List to receive new posts as they are written!

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The Heiman Law Firm provides professional family law services in cases such as divorce, child custody, child support, CPS, adoption and more. We have been proudly serving clients, primarily in Denton County, for over 25 years.

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