What is a standard possession order?

Many Texas couples pursuing a divorce encounter difficulties while trying to come to an agreement on issues pertaining to their children, such as child custody or visitation schedules. When this occurs, the state has a tool, developed by the Texas Legislature, to schedule visitation periods and outline a parenting plan. It is called a Standard Possession Order.

According to the language of the statute, the Standard Possession Order aims to achieve the difficult balance of being both practical and fair for both parents. Under the Standard Possession Order, the noncustodial parent's visitation period begins at 6 p.m. on the first, third and fifth Friday of each month and ends at 6 p.m. on the following Sunday. During the school year, that parent also has a possession period from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. every Thursday. Moreover, during the summer months, the noncustodial parent is entitled to a 30-day visit with the children, unless the distance separating the noncustodial parent's residence from the children's primary residence is greater than 100 miles, in which case the noncustodial parent is entitled to an additional 12 days during the summer.

Noncustodial parents may also opt for an expanded Standard Possession Order, which permits the noncustodial parents to begin their visitation period when school is dismissed on the first, third and fifth Friday of the month and to end it when school begins on the following Monday morning. Noncustodial parents must submit a written document electing to the expanded Standard Possession Order before or at the time that the judge makes the possession order.

The Standard Possession Order also establishes holiday visitation schedules. Holidays and school breaks are equally divided throughout the year, with each parent having possession of children for specific holidays on alternate years.

Modified orders may be necessary in cases where extenuating circumstances are present. Like other issues involved in family law, child custody and visitation rights can be vital yet complicated matters. That, in part, is why many divorcing parents individually retain the counsel of a family law attorney during and after the divorce process.

Source: State Bar of Texas, "Pro Se Divorce Handbook ", October 18, 2014

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