The most important issue that many parents face in a divorce or child custody case is how much time they will ultimately have with their child. In these situations, parents must make decisions about the rights and duties that they will each have over their child, along with the possession schedule that the parents and child will follow. If the parents are unable to come to an agreement on these terms, then a court will make a ruling on the issues. In many cases, one parent is appointed as the “custodial” or “home-base” parent who determines the primary residence of the child. The other parent, the “non-custodial parent,” follows a possession schedule over the child.
The most common possession schedule for non-custodial parents is called the Standard Possession Order. It grants the non-custodial parent time with the child every Thursday evening during the normal school term, and every first, third, and fifth weekend of each month beginning at 6:00 p.m. on Friday and ending at 6:00 p.m. on the following Sunday. In addition to these times, the non-custodial parent is awarded 30 days in the summer months, a week during Christmas break, and alternating spring break and Thanksgiving holidays.
The Standard Possession Order is presumed to be in the best interest of the child in all Texas family law cases, unless one party produces evidence to the contrary. While the Standard Possession Order is the most widely used schedule, it is important to note that it is the minimum amount of time that courts deem appropriate between a child and the non-custodial parent. If a parent wishes for the non-custodial parent to receive more time with the child, he or she should ask the court to grant them Expanded Standard Visitation under the Texas Family code (§153.317).
Expanded Standard Possession allows for a non-custodial parent to make certain elections to extend the duration of the standard possession order. These elections are:
WEEKENDS: The non-custodial parent can choose to pick up the child when school is dismissed on Friday and/or return the child when the child’s school resumes the following Monday.
THURSDAYS: The non-custodial parent can choose to pick up the child when school is dismissed on Thursday and/or return the child when the child’s school resumes the following Friday.
HOLIDAYS: Expanded Standard also lengthens the time available for holiday periods of possession (Christmas, Thanksgiving, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, and so forth), and for extended weekends due to holidays.
The benefit of Expanded Standard to many non-custodial parents is that it creates a period of uninterrupted visitation for four nights, lasting from the end of school Thursday through the following Monday morning for the non-custodial parent’s weekend possession. This duration can be beneficial to increasing a child’s bond with the non-custodial parent.
If a parent does not elect Expanded Standard Visitation under the Texas Family Code, then their claim to it is waived and they cannot retroactively elect it after the Order is entered. Therefore, it is important to discuss this option with an experienced Texas family lawyer to help you enter a possession schedule that works for you and your family.
If you have questions about possession schedules in a child custody or divorce case, contact Lindsey at Lindsey@thewrightlawyers.com, or at 972-353-4600.