During divorce lots of terminology is introduced that may not be familiar. You may have spoken with an attorney about custody and wondered, “What is a standard possession order?” This article provides helpful information shared by the state of Texas to help you understand more about possession orders.
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A possession order says when each parent (or sometimes a non-parent) has the right to time with a child.
There are several types of possession orders in Texas:
- Standard Possession Order
- Modified Possession Orders
- Possession Orders for a Child Under Three
- Supervised Possession Orders
Scroll to the bottom of this page for possession order forms.
What is the Standard Possession Order?
In Texas, the law presumes that the Standard Possession Order is in the best interest of a child age three or older.
The Standard Possession Order says that the parents may have possession of the child whenever they both agree.
The Standard Possession Order says that if the parents don’t agree, the noncustodial parent has the right to possession of the child at the times provided for in Texas Family Code 153.3171 if the parents live within 50 miles of one another (starting with cases filed on or after September 1, 2021).
When the parents live within 100 miles of each other, the noncustodial parent has the right to possession:
- 1st, 3rd and 5th weekends of every month,
- Thursday evenings during the school year,
- alternating holidays, and
- an extended period of time (30 days) during summer vacation.
When the parents live more than 100 miles apart:
- the weekend schedule may be the same or reduced to one weekend per month,
- there is no mid-week visit,
- holidays are the same, and
- the noncustodial parent has the child a longer period of time (42 days) during summer vacation and every spring break.
Scroll down to the bottom of the page for the possession order forms.
What is a Modified Possession Order?
You and the other parent (or the judge, if your case is contested) may decide that the Standard Possession Order is unworkable or inappropriate for your family. A modified possession order is anything different from the Standard Possession Order. Talk to a lawyer if you need help writing a modified possession order. A lawyer can help you write a possession order that meets the specific needs of your family.
What is a Possession Order for a child under age three?
The legal presumption that the Standard Possession Order is in a child’s best interest does not apply when a child is younger than three years old.
If your child is under three, you and the other parent may still agree to use the Standard Possession Order. Or you may agree to use a different possession schedule. If you and the other parent cannot agree on a schedule, the judge will make an order based on all relevant factors.
You can find helpful information about possession schedules for children under three, including sample schedules, at Informal (Out-of-Court) Agreements for Children from Birth to 3 Years Old.
Talk to a lawyer if you need help writing a possession order for a child under three.
Tip: Make sure your order also says what will happen after your child turns three.
What is a Supervised Possession Order?
If the judge is concerned about the safety of a child, the judge can order that a parent’s time with a child be supervised. The judge may order that the parent’s time be supervised by a family member, neutral third party or agency. If a private agency is used, the visiting parent may be responsible for paying the agency’s fees.
Although rare, a judge may also order that a parent have no visits. This option is used when visiting with the parent, even with supervision, would be physically or emotionally harmful to the child.
Note: It’s important to talk with a lawyer, if you are concerned about your child’s safety with the other parent.
How do I know if I have a Standard Posession Order?
Look at your order underneath the heading “Possession and Access Order.” If the noncustodial parent is given the 1st, 3rd, and 5th weekends (beginning on Friday and ending on Sunday), a weeknight visit once a week during the school term, a period of extended summer visitation, and shared holidays, then you probably have an SPO.
Possession order is the court’s phrase for parenting time. Sometimes it is also called visitation. Parenting time/possession orders state when the child (ren) will be with each parent or guardian.
- In most cases, both parents share parental rights and responsibilities (called joint managing conservatorship).
- Usually, one parent has the right to determine where the child (ren) lives. (This parent is also called the custodial parent.)
Texas has a standard possession order (SPO) for most parents. This is a plan for parenting your child that describes the minimum amount of time your child will spend with each parent. The parenting plan splits time between the noncustodial parent and custodial parent while still allowing the child to have a stable schedule.
- You and the other parent may decide to work out a different schedule than is in the order. That’s okay, as long as you both agree to the new schedule.
- If you and the other parent agree on a new schedule, the court will not enforce that schedule – it’s up to you and the other parent to follow through on your agreement.
- If you and the other parent cannot agree on a new schedule, if one of you decides that the new schedule isn’t working, both of you must follow the court-ordered schedule unless one of you files a motion to modify it with the court that issued the order.
- If one parent stops following the court order, the other parent can enforce the order in court after attempting to resolve the issue outside of court.
If the parents live within 100 miles of each other, the noncustodial parent has parenting time with the child every 1st, 3rd, and 5th weekend, one weeknight per week during the school year, about half of all holidays, and for an extended time during the summer. View the ‘My Sticker Calendar’ to see an illustration. Check your local school district’s calendar for specifics about vacations and holidays and use the calendar’s stickers to plan with your child.
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