Standard Possession Order
Visitation arrangements can have many variations. In fact, parents may agree to almost any arrangements regarding child custody. However, if parents cannot agree, child custody will generally follow a schedule developed by the Texas Legislature that is designed to be fair and workable for both parents in most circumstances.
In general, the Standard Possession Order (“SPO”) provides that the noncustodial parent is granted visitation of the child beginning at 6:00 p.m. every first, third and fifth Friday of each month and ending at 6:00 p.m. on the following Sunday, as well as every Thursday evening, from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m during the regular school year. All holidays, including Thanksgiving, Christmas (winter) and spring break are divided between the parents, giving one parent the right to spend a particular holiday with the child every other year.
The SPO also provides for the non-custodial parent to have thirty days with the child during the summer, or forty-two if the child lives more than 100 miles away from that parent.
Expanded Standard Possession Order
In 1995, the Texas Legislature enacted a provision that allows for the noncustodial parent to elect alternate beginning and ending possession times when exercising the Standard Possession Order. Under the current statute, the noncustodial parent can elect to modify their possession periods to begin at the time the child’s school is regularly dismissed and to end at the time the child’s school resumes as opposed to the 6:00 p.m. start and end time as set forth above.
To make this election, the noncustodial parent must make this election prior to or at the time the Judge signs the possession order. The election must be made in a written document filed with the court or must be made orally by the noncustodial parent in open court to the Judge.
If there has been a history of abuse or neglect, the court may require that any visitation by the abusive or neglectful parent be supervised. Generally courts will appoint a mutually agreed upon family member or third party to supervise the periods of possession or will appoint a supervision facility to conduct the supervision.