Father plays with son after navigating Texas Standard Possession Order to set a visitation schedule

What is the Texas Standard Possession Order in a Child Custody Case?

Child custody is a challenging and complex family law issue. Parenting time arrangements, custody rights, and visitation schedules can have an enormous impact on your family and the well-being of any children in your care.

I understand that determining child custody can be stressful and emotionally taxing. You may even have questions about the Texas Standard Possession Order in your custody case. That’s why I’m here to help walk you through every step of the legal implications from start to finish. Read on to learn more about Texas child custody and visitation rights.

Understanding the Texas Standard Possession Order

According to Texas Family Code 153.252, a Texas Standard Possession Order (SPO) exists to protect the best interests of children when the court is determining non-custodial possession and time spent between both parents. This includes what holidays, weekdays, and weekends the custodial and non-custodial parents will have with their children.

Child custody cases can be complicated. Due to work schedules and preferences, it can often be difficult for parents to arrange a schedule with fair visitation for the non-custodial parent. For this reason, SPOs are used to provide fair and unbiased guidelines for non-custodial parent visitation. Standard Possession Orders automatically set visitation schedules.

Usually, a Texas Standard Possession Order will be used as a launching point for negotiations, and SPOs can be altered to account for individual circumstances. Generally, these orders are structured to work for either older school-aged children or younger non-school-aged children ages three and older. (Children under the age of three usually stay in the care of the primary custodial parent.)

Simply put, a Texas Standard Possession Order ensures that the non-custodial parent will have access to a fair visitation schedule with their children. These orders can be adjusted to fit the schedules of either parent, taking into account things such as weekends, holidays, birthdays, and summer break.

Let’s review some additional questions you may have about SPOs.

1. Why Are Standard Possession Orders Used in Custody Cases?

SPOs help ensure that non-custodial parents can maintain a relationship with their minor children. When the court is trying to determine where children will live, they must also designate matters of visitation. In legal terms, we call this possession and access.

Usually, the court will refer to the Standard Possession Order when determining custody and visitation. If you are a non-custodial parent, a family law attorney such as myself can help you better understand how these orders are used. I will work with you to ensure that you get fair access to your children during and after your custody and visitation case.

2. How Old Must a Child Be For Standard Visitation to Apply?

SPO (standard visitation orders) can be applied if a child is older than three years. Usually, one parent will have custody while the other parent will have visitation.

  • The custodial parent will have children for most of the week.
  • The non-custodial parent is awarded visitation rights based on the SPO.

However, for younger children, visitation may still apply. Call my offices for assistance if you are trying to schedule parenting time and visitation for younger children.

3. Do Standard Possession Orders Apply to Hour of Day or Just the Date?

SPO rights determine the times and days that the non-custodial parent will receive access to their children. Consider these examples:

  • From 5 p.m. on alternating Fridays until 6 p.m. the following Sunday
  • Or every Thursday from 6 to 9 p.m. throughout the school year
  • For summer break, the SPO may require that the non-custodial parent receives access from July 1st at 1 p.m. to July 30th at 1 p.m.

4. How Do SPOs Apply to Summer and Holidays in Texas?

In Texas, SPOs address access to children during holidays and summer. This is because holidays and summer vacations usually include a departure from normal day-to-day activities. School-aged children who have summer vacation will usually go to the non-custodial parent for 30 days of the summer.

However, additional terms or written notices can be used to adjust this visitation time. If there is a specific month of the summer that the non-custodial parent would like to have their children, they must submit a written notice of designation between the 1st and 15th of April. Otherwise, the Standard Possession Orders will automatically grant them visitation for 30 days in July.

Major holidays like Christmas and Thanksgiving can present an area of contention between custodial parents and non-custodial parents. Usually, one parent will get Thanksgiving, and the other parent will get Christmas each year. This will alternate from year to year.

  • For example: if the non-custodial parent received access on Thanksgiving in 2021, they would have access to the children on Christmas in 2022.

Sometimes, holidays also coincide with school vacation breaks like spring break or winter break. When this happens, the SPOs will split the holiday into two halves for parents. Both parents will get to have their children for half of the school vacation.

For birthdays, Texas Standard Possession Orders state that each parent gets to spend time with a child.

  • For example: on a child’s birthday, the non-custodial parent will usually be allowed to visit their child between 6 p.m. and 8 p.m.

Find Help Protecting Your Parental Rights in a Custody Case

Need assistance with your parenting time schedule? If you are a non-custodial parent who needs legal support with visitation rights in Texas, then I will work hard to ensure that you have fair access to your child(ren). My goal is to provide you with expert representation so that you can maintain a healthy relationship with your kids.

I understand that visitation and possession orders can seem complicated and difficult to navigate. I am readily available to provide you with information to help you understand how the Texas Standard Possession Order works in custody cases.

I currently provide legal support to clients in Fort Bend County, Brazoria County, and Harris County. If you live in a Texas county where I practice law, then call my offices today at 281-944-5485 or 979-267-7660 to discuss your legal situation. Working together, I will help protect your parental rights in a child custody case!