One of the first questions all parents have when starting the divorce process is “When will I get to see my kids?” In Texas, child possession and visitation can take many shapes and forms depending on a variety of factors. These factors will all be taken into account through the lens which the judges must view each case, which is looking after the “best interest of the child.” That means that the schedules are not one size fits all. The following are some varying forms of child custody schedules.
Standard Possession Order
The most common child possession schedule is known as the Standard Possession Order (SPO). This is a child custody order that has been spelled out by the Texas legislature in the Texas Family Code. This is what most people think of when they think of having a kid every other weekend.
In the Standard Possession Order, one parent (the primary) has the child during the week and the 2nd and 4th weekends of each month. The other parent (the non-primary) gets the child every other weekend which is the 1st, 3rd, and 5th weekend of each month. There can also be visit during the week or even an overnight visit during the week. In addition, there are provisions for parents who live within 100 miles of each other or if they live more than 100 miles apart. There will also be provisions for summers, holidays and birthdays.
The Standard Possession Order is easy to understand and follow and has been commonly used by judges for years. But what if the Standard Possession Order doesn’t work in your particular situation?
50/50 Possession Order
A trend has been developing in some courts to order a child custody order that gives each parent 50/50 possession of the child. The reasoning behind this is that it’s seen as being in the best interest of the child to have close and continuing contact with both parents.
There are several different ways that a 50/50 child possession order can be written. Some of these will be discussed in a different blog article. The possession schedule should, however, take into account both parents work schedules.
Non-typical Possession orders
Sometimes the Standard Possession Order or 50/50 Possession Order just won’t work for the parents. This is common when one or both parents have jobs with non-standard hours or other factors necessitate a child possession schedule that fits their needs. This may be useful for firefighters, police officers, shift workers, etc. Non-typical possession orders also work well for parents who travel a lot for work such as consultants, salespeople or airline pilots and flight attendants.
Children Under 3
If a child is under 3 years of age, then the child custody schedule can also look quite different from other visitation schedules. The legislature has made it clear that if the child is under 3 then the courts should take that into account when determining a child custody order. The legislature does not, however, specify how exactly the possession schedule should work for a child under 3, only that the court should render an appropriate order. Some judges have their own specific schedule they like to follow for children this age while others go case by case.
Summer, Holidays, and Birthdays
Each child custody order will include provisions for summer, holidays and birthday visitations. With the children out of school, summer is the obvious time for parents to try to plan a vacation. A typical child possession schedule will allow both parents to have extended time with the child for vacations.
Most holidays are driven by the children’s school schedule. The typical holidays include Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day and other school related holidays. In addition, other religious or cultural holidays can be included in the order as well.
There are also typically provisions for the children’s birthday that ensure both parents get to spend time with the child on their birthday. Some parents want to alternate the children’s birthday while others want to make sure they can each have their own time with the child on their birthdays. A typical child possession schedule will also include provisions for each of the parent’s birthdays to ensure that each parent gets to spend time with the child on the parent’s birthday.
If you have questions regarding possible child possession schedules or need to modify an existing child custody order contact the family law attorneys at Hayes, Berry, White & Vanzant. Give us a call to set up a consultation at (940) 387-3518, or contact us here.