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WHAT IS A STANDARD POSSESSION ORDER?

Parents who separate find themselves trying to navigate the complex visitation laws of Texas.  These laws provide a starting point visitation schedule that is presumed to be in the best interest of the child.  This visitation schedule is known as the Standard Possession Order, commonly referred to as the "SPO".  The SPO may be expanded to allow increased visitation time for the non-custodial parent.  Today's blog post will summarize the main parts of the Standard Possession Order.  

Weekends

The SPO weekend visitation is for the non-custodial parent to have the child from 6:00 p.m. on the first, third and fifth Fridays of each month until 6:00 p.m. on the following Sunday.  The expanded SPO permits the non-custodial parent to have the child from the time school is dismissed on the first, third and fifth Fridays of each month until the time school resumes on the following Monday.

Weeknights

The SPO provides for the non-custodial parent to have the child from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. every Thursday during the school term.  The expanded SPO permits the non-custodial parent to have the child from the time school is dismissed on Thursday and return the child to school on Friday morning.

Holidays

The SPO provides for the non-custodial parent to have the child, in even numbered years, from 6:00 p.m. on the day school is dismissed for the Christmas holidays until noon on December 28, and in odd-numbered years, from noon on December 28 until 6:00 p.m. on the day before school resumes after the holidays.  The SPO also gives the non-custodial parent possession of the child, in odd-numbered years, from 6:00 p.m. on the day school is dismissed for Thanksgiving break until 6:00 p.m. on the day before school resumes. Additionally, the non-custodial parent has possession of the child for Spring Break in even-numbered years, beginning at 6:00 p.m. on the day school is dismissed and ending at 6:00 p.m. on the day before school resumes.

Birthdays, Mother's Day and Father's Day

The parent not otherwise entitled to possession of the child on the child's birthday has the right to possession of the child on the child's birthday from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.  The father has the right to possession for Father's Day weekend and the mother has the right to possession for Mother's Day weekend.  These provisions trump the regular weekend visitation schedule.

Summer

For parents who reside within 100 miles apart, the non-custodial parent has the right to possession for 30 days each summer, as selected by the non-custodial parent before April 1.  If specific dates are not selected by April 1, the summer visitation defaults to the month of July.  During the summer visitation, the custodial parent may carve out one weekend.  For parents that reside more than 100 miles apart, the summer visitation period is 42 days rather than 30 days.

Legal presumptions

Texas law provides that the Standard Possession Order is presumed to be in the best interest of children over the age of three.  Many families have widely varying routines, schedules and circumstances that would make the Standard Possession Order unworkable.  Each parent may present evidence to the Court to rebut this presumption, showing how the Standard Posession Order is not in the best interest of the child, arguing that either more visitation or less visitation would be better for the child.  

If you are a parent and are considering separation, it is critical that you understand the details and nuances of the Standard Possession Order, and that you are prepared to show the Court any evidence to rebut the presumption that the Standard Possession Order is in the best interest of your child.   Christiansen Law Firm has extensive experience assisting parents in custody and visitation matters.  The family law attorneys at Christiansen Law Firm can evaluate your circumstances and provide guidance on how to best protect your children.  Contact Christiansen Law Firm in Houston or San Antonio to schedule a free consultation.

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