texas standard possession order

Texas Standard Possession Order Explained

A common request we hear at our firm from our divorce and family law clients is how exactly does the Texas Standard Possession Order work?  First, we need to explain some terminology.  The Texas Standard Possession Order, codified under section 153 of the Texas Family Code, will refer to the parents as the “Managing Conservator” and “Possessory Conservator” regardless of whether each parent is appointed as a managing or possessory conservator.  For the purposes of the Texas Standard Possession Order, the “Managing Conservator” is the parent with the right to designate the child’s primary residence, and the “Possessory Conservator” is the other parent.

 

Mutual Agreement in the Texas Standard Possession Order

The Texas Standard Possession Order always allows a child’s parents to mutually agree to anything they want regarding possession and access.  As long as you and your child’s mother or father agree on what to do, you are free to do whatever you like. The rest of the Texas Standard Possession Order applies when a child’s parents cannot agree on how to handle possession.

This freedom for agreement is not all or nothing.  It applies any time both parents can agree on what to do, even if they follow the Standard Possession Order the rest of the time.  For example, if the Texas Standard Possession Order is included in your divorce decree, and you and your ex-spouse agree that the child can travel with your ex for vacation during a period of time that would ordinarily belong to you, you can agree to that, even if you have been following the Texas Standard Possession Order until then.

Given this freedom for agreement, I would recommend that every time the parents of a child agree to deviate from the possession schedule included in their final orders, they verify their agreement in writing (either written mail or email) to protect themselves from one party from later claiming that the deviation from the court order was not by agreement.

 

What Part of the Texas Standard Possession Order Applies?

The actual terms of the Texas Standard Possession Order are divided into four major parts:

  1. Periods of possession that apply to parents who live within 100 miles of each other;
  2. Periods of possession that apply to parents who live over 100 miles apart;
  3. Periods of possession that apply regardless of the distance between the parents; and
  4. The general terms and conditions relating to logistics rather than periods of possession.

 

Parents That Live Within 100 miles of Each Other (Texas Standard Possession Order)

Undesignated Periods of Possession

For parents that live within 100 miles of each other, the Managing Conservator (the parent with the right to designate primary residence) gets to have the child at all times not specifically given to the Possessory Conservator (the parent the child does not primarily reside with).  That is, the Standard Possession Order lists all the times the Possessory Conservator gets to have the child. The Managing Conservator gets the child at all other times despite the fact that they are not specifically listed.

 

Weekends

Under the Texas Standard Possession Order, the Possessory Conservator gets the children every first, third, and fifth weekend of each month.  Weekend are deemed to begin on Fridays, not Saturdays. Generally, the Possessory Conservator gets the child starting from 6:00 pm each first, third, and fifth Friday of each month until 6:00 pm the following Sunday.  However, the Texas Standard Possession Order could also give the Possessory Conservator what is generally referred to as “standard extended possession.” Under the “extended” Texas Standard Possession Order, the Possessory Conservator gets the child every first, third, and fifth Friday of each month beginning when the child is dismissed from school that Friday (the Possessory Conservator has the right to pick the child up from school), and ending when the child returns to school the following Monday (the Possessory Conservator is responsible for taking the child back to school on Monday).  During the summer months when the child’s school is not in session, all of the Possessory Conservator’s weekend periods of possession begin at 6:00 pm on Friday and end at 6:00 pm the following Sunday.

If the Possessory Conservator’s weekend possession is supposed to begin on a Friday on which the school is closed (holiday or teacher in-service day) or on a federal, state, or local holiday during the summer, that period of possession will instead begin on the immediately preceding Thursday either at 6:00 pm or when the child is dismissed from school that Thursday, as applicable.

If the Possessory Conservator’s weekend possession is supposed to end on, or is immediately followed by, a Monday on which the school is closed (holiday or teacher in-service day) or on a federal, state, or local holiday during the summer, that period of possession will instead end at 6:00 pm on that Monday.

 

Thursdays

In addition to weekends, the Texas Standard Possession Order also give the Possessory Conservator the right to have the child each Thursday from 6:00 pm until 8:00 pm that same day.  As with weekends, there is also an “extended version of Thursday possession. Under the “extended” version of Thursday possession, the Possessory Conservator gets the child each Thursday beginning when the child is dismissed from school that day (the Possessory Conservator has the right to pick up the child from school) and ends when the child goes back to school the next day (the Possessory Conservator has the responsibility to take the child back to school on Friday.)

Because of the way the extended possession works, a Possessory Conservator with “extended standard possession” could end up with possession of the child from Thursday afternoon until the following Monday.  For example, a Possessory Conservator with “extended” possession picks up the child from school on Thursday. Because the Possessory Conservator has “extended” possession, he keeps the child that Thursday night and takes him back to school on Friday.  Because that Friday begins the third weekend of the month, the Possessory Conservator picks up the child from school again that Thursday afternoon, keeps the child for the weekend, and finally returns the child to school on Monday.

 

Spring Break

The Possessory Conservator get the child for the child’s spring break in even-numbered years, beginning either when the child is dismissed from school for spring break (the Possessory Conservator has the right to pick the child up from school) or at 6:00 pm that day, as specified in the Orders, and ending at 6:00 pm on the day before school resumes after spring break.  The Managing Conservator will get the child for spring break in odd-numbered years beginning and ending at the same time. For example, orders entered at the end of 2017 will mean the Possessory Conservator will get the child for spring break in 2018, and the Managing Conservator will get the child for spring break in 2019, and the pattern continues from there. The orders pertaining to spring break supercede the weekend/Thursday visitation that otherwise apply.

 

Summer Possession

If the Possessory Conservator gives the Managing Conservator written notice by April 1, the Possessory Conservator can choose any thirty days between the day after the child is dismissed for summer vacation to seven days before school resumes after summer during which the Possessory Conservator has the child for summer vacation.  These thirty days can be taken all together or broken up into two separate periods, as long as each period lasts at least 7 days, and the days selected do not interfere with Father’s Day (if the father is the Managing Conservator). These periods of possession begin at end at 6:00 p.m. on each applicable day. If the Possessory Conservator does not give written notice to the Managing Conservator by April 1, the Possessory Conservator gets the child from 6:00 pm on July 1st to 6:00 pm on July 31.

If the Managing Conservator gives the Possessory Conservator written notice by April 15 or fourteen days’ notice after April 15, the Managing Conservator may designate one weekend during the summer to have the child that would ordinarily belong to the Possessory Conservator, as long as that weekend does not occur during the Possessory Conservator’s summer possession or Father’s day (if the father is the Possessory Conservator).  Also, if the Managing Conservator gives the Possessory Conservator written notice by April 15 or fourteen days’ notice after April 15, the Managing Conservator can choose one weekend during the Possessory Conservator’s summer possession, beginning at 6:00 pm on Friday and ending at 6:00 pm the following Sunday, as long as that weekend does not interfere with Father’s day (if the father is the Possessory Conservator).

 

Parents Who Reside More Than 100 Miles Apart (Texas Standard Possession Order)

Undesignated Periods of Possession

As with parents who live within 100 miles of each other, the Managing Conservator gets the child at all times not specifically given to the Possessory Conservator when the parents live more than 100 miles apart.

 

Weekends

For parents who live more than 100 miles apart, the Standard Possession Order will specify whether the weekend possession will follow the same weekend schedule as that of parents who reside within 100 miles of each other, or whether the “alternative period of weekend possession” will be used.  If the “alternative period of weekend possession” is used, the Possessory Conservator selects one weekend each month to have the child, beginning at 6:00 pm on the day the child is dismissed from school for the weekend and ending at 6:00 pm on the day before school resumes after the weekend. The Possessory conservator must give the Managing Conservator 14 days’ written or telephonic notice prior to the designated weekend.  Note that the “alternative period of weekend possession” does not specify that the weekend possession will begin on Friday and end on Sunday. This means that the Possessory Conservator can purposely select a weekend where the child will be dismissed from school on Thursday or return to school on Tuesday to have an extra day during the weekend.

 

No Thursdays

Unlike when the parents live within 100 miles of each other, the Possessory Conservator does not have any Thursday possession when the parents live more than 100 miles apart.

 

Spring Break

Instead of getting the child for spring break only during even-numbered years, the Possessory Conservator gets the child every year beginning at 6:00 pm on the day the child is dismissed from school for spring break and ends at 6:00 pm on the day before the child’s school resumes after spring break.

 

Summer Possession

Summer possession for parents that live more than 100 miles apart follows the same rules as parents who live within 100 miles of each other, except that the Possessory Conservator gets up to forty-two days during the summer if notice is given by April 1, and gets the child from June 15 to July 27 if no notice is given.

Also, if the Managing Conservator gives the Possessory Conservator written notice by April 15 and the Possessory Conservator has the child for over 30 consecutive days, the Managing Conservator can select two non-consecutive weekends that would otherwise belong to the Possessory Conservator, as long as those weekends to not interfere with Father’s day (if the father is the possessory Conservator).  If the Managing Conservator gives the Possessory Conservator written notice by April 15, the Managing Conservator can also designate twenty-one days during the summer (between the day after school is dismissed for summer to seven days before school resumes after summer) to have the child. These twenty-one days can be taken all together or divided into two periods of at least seven days. These twenty-one days also cannot interfere with the Possessory Conservator’s designated periods of summer possession or with Father’s day (if the father is the Possessory Conservator).

 

Holidays Unaffected by Distance

Regardless of whether the parents live more or less than 100 miles apart, the following provisions for holiday possession always apply in the Texas Standard Possession Order.  Furthermore, these provisions regarding holidays take precedence over the provisions controlling weekend, Thursday, spring break, or summer possession.

 

Christmas

In even-numbered years, the Possessory Conservator gets the child beginning either when the child is dismissed from school for Christmas (the Possessory Conservator has the right to pick up the child from school) or at 6:00 pm on the day the child is dismissed from school for Christmas, as specified in the orders, and ending at noon on December 28th.  The Managing Conservator then gets the child beginning at noon on December 28th and ending at 6:00 p.m. the day before school resumes after Christmas vacation ends.

In odd-numbered years these two periods are reversed, so that the Managing Conservator gets the child from the day the child is dismissed until December 28th, and the Possessory Conservator gets the child from December 28th until the day before school resumes after Christmas vacation ends.

 

Thanksgiving

In even-numbered years, the Managing Conservator gets the child beginning either when the child is dismissed from school for Thanksgiving or at 6:00 pm on the day the child is dismissed from Thanksgiving, as specified in the orders, and ending at 6:00 pm on the Sunday following Thanksgiving.  The Possessory Conservator gets the child for the same time in odd-numbered years.

Note that the Christmas and Thanksgiving schedule is arranged so that if one parent has the child during Thanksgiving, the other parent will actually have the child on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day that same year.  For example, if a child’s mother has the right to designate the child’s primary residence, in 2018 she will have the child for Thanksgiving and from December 28th until the child goes back to school. The child’s father will not have the child for Thanksgiving that year, but will have the child from the time the child gets out of school for Christmas until December 28th (covering Christmas Eve and Christmas Day).  In 2019, the schedule will alternate so that the child’s father will get the child for Thanksgiving and from December 28th until the child goes back to school, and the child’s mother will have the child from the time the child gets out of school until December 28th (covering Christmas Eve and Christmas Day).

 

Child’s Birthday

The parent that does not already have the child on the child’s birthday gets that child (and the child’s siblings, if included in the orders) beginning at 6:00 pm and ending at 8:00 pm that same day.  The parent getting the children from 6:00 – 8:00 must pick up the child from the other parent’s residence and return the child to the same place.

 

Father’s Day

If the child’s father will not already have the child on Father’s Day, the child’s father gets the child beginning at 6:00 pm on the Friday before Father’s Day and ending at either 6:00 pm on Father’s Day or at 8:00 am the Monday after Father’s Day, as specified in the orders.  The child’s father must pick up the child from the mother’s residence and return the child to the same place.

 

Mother’s Day

If the child’s mother will not already have the child on Mother’s Day, the child’s mother gets the child beginning either when the child is dismissed from school on the Friday before Mother’s Day or at 6:00 pm on the Friday before Mother’s Day, as specified in the orders, and ending at either at 6:00 pm on Mother’s Day or when the child returns to school on the Monday after Mother’s Day, as specified in the orders.  The child’s mother must pick up the child from the father’s residence and return the child to the same place.

General Terms and Conditions in the Texas Standard Possession Order

In addition to dictating when each parent gets the child, the Texas Standard Possession Order also includes instructions on how to handle exchanges of the child and other logistical matters.  Unless the Possessory Conservator is picking up the child from school (as specified by when the Possessory Conservator’s periods of possession begin), the Possessory Conservator must pick up the child from the Managing Conservator’s residence.  The Texas Standard Possession Order will either order the Managing Conservator to pick up the child from the Possessory Conservator’s residence, or order the Possessory Conservator to return the child to the Managing Conservator’s residence. (Caveat: If the Managing Conservator and Possessory Conservator live in the same county when the orders are first entered, and then the Managing Conservator moves to a different county, the Managing Conservator must drop the child of at the Possessory Conservator’s residence).

At each exchange, each parent must return the child with all personal items that the child brought with him/her, each parent may designate any competent adult to pick up/drop off the child.  Each parent must give notice to the other if that parent does not intent to have the child when ordered. Finally, if the Possessory Conservator is supposed to drop the child off at school, and will not be doing so for any reason (i.e. illness), the Possessory Conservator must inform both the school and the Managing Conservator.

 

If you need assistance with a family law matter involving child custody and/or the Texas Standard Possession Order, the family law attorneys at Fair and Fair, PLLC would be happy to help you. 

With offices in Katy and Waco, the probate attorneys of Fair and Fair, PLLC are here to help our neighbors in Central Texas and the greater West Houston area. 

Additionally, we also serve clients in outlying areas of Harris and Fort Bend counties like Cinco Ranch, Fulshear, Sugar Land, Richmond, Rosenberg, Missouri City, and greater Western Houston.  In Central Texas, we serve clients in outlying areas of McLennan, Bell, and Falls counties like Hewitt, Woodway, Robinson, Marlin, Mart, Temple, Belton, Killeen, and Copperas Cove. 

Please feel free to call us toll free at (877) 634-5566, fill out the contact form, or visit our Contact Page to schedule a free initial consultation.

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