Issues regarding parenting plans and child custody (also known as conservatorship) can be the most contentious part of negotiating a JOY of DIVORCE Emancipation agreement. The priority is to make decisions based on the best interests of the child, but the parents may not agree on what that means.
The courts here in Texas generally prefer to award joint custody, in the presumption that children are best served if both parents are active in their life. That seldom means an exact 50/50 time split for periods of possession. Moreover, there are some instances where one is the custodial parent who gets custody, but the other non-custodial parent will still likely have visitation rights or parenting time assigned. All these and other details are addressed in a Standard Possession Order (SPO) set forth in Texas in the Texas Family Code.
What SPO looks like
The schedules and circumstances of each family are different, and a plan can change as the needs and interests of the child change. With the understanding that it is in the best interests of the child to see the non-custodial parent, the usual template for the SPO and parenting time for children who are three years or older is:
- Possession of the child for a couple of hours each Thursday after school or from 6:00 p.m. until 8:00 p.m. or overnight;
- Possession of the child on the first, third and fifth weekends of each month Friday 6:00 p.m. until Sunday 6:00 p.m. or back to school after the weekend;
- Possession on alternating holidays and the child’s birthday; and
- Possession for 4 weeks each summer
The SPO language outlines how, when, and where the transfer of possession will take place. It will also address unique challenges if the parents live further than 100 miles apart. If parents have an SPO, they can still modify it to fit the changing needs of the child.
Reasons for not using this schedule
Unfortunately, there may be good reasons why parenting time or possession is not in the best interests of the child. It can be concern over physical safety or violence toward the child or an unusual work schedule for one or more of the parents. Perhaps the reason is that the non-custodial parent has had little or no consistent prior contact with the child.
Drafting an SPO that works
Finding a schedule that fits the needs of the child as well as work and other demands upon parents’ time can be complicated, but it is not impossible. An experienced Board-certified Family Law expert attorney in Collin County, Dallas County, Denton County, or elsewhere throughout Texas can help families draft a workable plan, or modify and enforce one already in place