Sometimes, parents are not able to work through their child custody concerns and require court intervention to establish possession and access. When this is the case, the court is likely to refer to the Standard Possession Order when making a decision on the parents’ possession and access to the child.
What is Standard Possession Order?
The Standard Possession Order (SPO), is a statute created by the Texas Family Code that’s generally used as a guide to divide parenting time when parents do not otherwise agree. The presumption is that an award of SPO is in the best interest of the child. Typically, when the child lives primarily with one parent, the custodial or primary parent, the other parent (non-custodial or non-primary parent) has “possession” of the child. The SPO dictates the access and possession and states what days, weekends, and holidays both custodial and non-custodial parents can have with the child.
Standard Possession Order Schedule for Children over the age of 3
In general, in a standard possession order for a school-age child, the primary parent will have the child during the bulk of the week. If the non-primary parent is awarded an SPO, then that parent will have possession and access of the child beginning at 6 PM on the 1st, 3rd, and 5th Friday of the month and ending at 6 PM the following Sunday. During the school year, the non-primary parent is also allowed a Thursday visitation from 6 PM to 8 PM.
Holidays and Vacations
Holidays and vacations, of course, are special times that often vary from the normal possession and access arrangement. There are several things to consider regarding holidays and school vacations including:
- Major Holidays: On odd-numbered years, one parent gets one set of major holidays while the other parent gets the other. For example, if a parent gets Christmas day, the other parent gets Thanksgiving. And vice-versa on even-numbered years. The Christmas holiday season (or school Christmas vacation break) may also be divided into two parts between parents. Part one is from the day of school dismissal till noon on December 28 and Part two is December 28 till 6 PM the day before school resumes.
- Summer Break: Subject to additional rules and written notices to the other parent, most possession orders have an option allowing the non-custodial or “non-primary” parent to designate up to 30 days as theirs during the summer. Notices for summer vacations must be provided between April 1 and April 15. If the non-custodial parent misses the April 1st deadline for written notice, the Texas Standard Possession Order generally gives the entire month of July to that non-custodial parent.
- Birthdays: Birthdays are often rotated by year; One year, Mom gets to spend it with the child, and the next year, Dad gets to. Though, the parent not in possession of the child on the child’s birthday is entitled to pick up the child for two hours between 6 p.m. and 8 p.m.
- Special holidays: Holidays like Mother's Day and Father's Day are exceptions to the usual schedule and should be planned accordingly. Almost all possession orders give Father’s Day Weekend to the father and Mother’s Day weekend to the mother.
Standard Possession Order Schedule for Children Under 3
The court will take into consideration a number of factors when assigning custody schedules that involve children under the age of three, especially if no school-age siblings are also involved.
- How custody of school-age siblings is transferred.
- The availability of each parent to care for the child themselves during times when they would otherwise exercise visitation with the child.
- The physical, mental, and emotional well-being of each parent as well as their capability to care for the child.
- The mental or emotional distress the child could experience if they are separated from a particular parent for a long period of time
When You're Separated by 100+ Miles
Many Courts may find it unrealistic for a child to travel back and forth during the 1st, 3rd, and 5th weekend of the month when their parents are separated by more than 100 miles. For parents separated by 100+ miles, their SPO may follow the below guidelines:
- Instead of 1st, 3rd, 5th weekend, the child will spend one weekend per month with the noncustodial parent. That parent must provide 14 days’ notice in order to designate this weekend.
- The noncustodial parent may be awarded a longer stretch of time during the summer: 42 days, rather than the usual 30. In addition, the noncustodial parent may be awarded longer stretches of time with the child during school breaks.
It’s important to note that if the Standard Possession Order does not fit your family’s needs – then you and the child's other parent are free to come up with an arrangement that works for the two of you. As long as the child's best interest is taken into consideration, the court may approve your agreement. Need more help drawing up a custody arrangement or handling a custody dispute? Contact us today to learn how we can help.
With over 25+ years of experience, our award-winning Texas Family Law Firm can assist you in all your child custody related matters including:
- Child custody orders: Establishing custody, possession and access
- Child custody disputes
- Temporary orders
- Modifications and enforcement of existing orders
- Parental relocation & Modifying Geographic Restrictions
- "Third-party" custody and visitation issues including Grandparent rights
- Stepparent adoptions
- Protective and Restraining Orders