In any divorce involving minor children, the parties and ultimately the court must approve a custody plan for those children. In Texas, that custody plan starts with the Standard Possession Order. Below you can read about the Standard Possession Order as well as the circumstances and factors a court will consider in determining whether and to what extent it might deviate from that SPO.
Key points to remember:
- There is a presumption that the SPO is in the best interests of the children, but that may be rebutted by evidence showing that the SPO is not in the child’s best interests.
- The terms of the SPO will vary based on the distance between the child’s residence and the noncustodial parent.
- The SPO is designed to apply to children 3 years of age or older. Texas law recognizes that children under the age of 3 years benefit from a stable environment.
- The bests interests of the children will always be the primary concern in deciding issues of child custody.
- Possession or access to a child may not be conditioned or based upon the payment of child support.
- Courts very much favor parents creating their own parenting plan for the terms of their custody issues, subject to court approval that the plan is in the best interests of the children.
Understand Texas’s Public Policy Regarding Child Custody is:
- To assure that children will have frequent and continuing contact with parents who have shown the ability to act in the best interest of the child;
- Provide a safe, stable, and nonviolent environment for the child;
- Encourage parents to share in the rights and duties of raising their child after the parents have separated or dissolved their marriage;
- To encourage frequent contact between a child and each parent for periods of possession that optimize the development of a close and continuing relationship between each parent and child; and
- For all children in a family to be together during periods of possession.
For parents residing within 100 or less of each other, the noncustodial parent is entitled to possession under the Standard Possession Order as follows:
- On the 1st, 3rd and 5th weekends of each month.
- On Thursday evenings from 6pm-8pm during the school term; or, upon election, from the end of school Thursday until school resumes on Friday.
- During Spring Break in even numbered years.
- For 30 days during summer, but the custodial parent may have one weekend of visitation during that period.
For parents residing more than 100 miles from each other, the noncustodial parent is entitled to possession under the Standard Possession Order as follows:
- For one weekend each month, or on the 1st, 3rd, and 5th weekend of each month.
- During every Spring Break.
- For 42 days during the summer, but the custodial parent is entitled to two weekends of visitation during that period.
Regardless of distance, the noncustodial parent is entitled to possession under the Standard Possession Order:
- During the first part of the child’s Christmas school holidays in even numbered years (up to December 28th).
- During the last part of the child’s Christmas school holidays in odd numbered years (from December 28th)
- During the 4 day Thanksgiving weekend in odd numbered years.
- For two-hours (usually 6pm-8pm) on the child’s birthday.
- On Father’s Day or Mother’s Day, as appropriate.
Factors that will cause a court to deviate from or modify the Standard Possession Order:
- If there is a history of domestic violence or sexual abuse in the family.
- If there is a history of neglect or abandonment.
- If the work schedule or other special circumstances of the custodial parent, noncustodial parent, or the child make the standard possession order unworkable or inappropriate.
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