We do things differently in Texas. This even applies to family law matters. For example, we use the term “standard possession orders” (SPO) rather than the typically used “visitation” or “custody” terminology. SPOs dictate when each parent (or non-parent) has the legal right to spend time with a child. Access is based on the best interests of the child aged three or older, although parents can agree to use one for younger children.
How it works
The standard possession order also states that the parent or adult may also possess the children whenever both agree. If the parents disagree, the non-custodial parent can exercise their right to possession outlined in Texas Family Code 153.3171 if they live within 50 miles of each other – it should be noted that this was updated and went into effect on September 1, 2021. Under the new rule, the court alters a child’s SPO with alternative beginning and ending possession times if it is in the children’s best interests.
If the parents live within 100 miles of one another, the SPO provides the following possession guidelines:
- First, third and fifth weekends of the month
- Thursday nights during the school year
- 30 days during summer break
- Alternating holidays
The rules change if the parents live further than 100 miles apart:
- The weekend schedule is once per month or First, Third and Fifth weekends, at the option of the distant parent.
- The non-custodial parent gets 42 days during summer break.
- There is no Thursday night visit.
SPOs can be contentious
SPOs are one of the most common points in dispute when Texas parents file for divorce. While the above guidelines are a starting template, parents can negotiate their schedule based on what they believe is best for their children. An experienced, Board-Certified Texas Family Law expert attorney can help negotiate the SPO or address other issues in dispute.