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Texas Child Possession Orders - Standard, Expanded and Customized

The Texas Family Code in §153.312 sets out a "Standard Possession Order" for parents living within 100 miles of each other. This is often the starting point for most divorcing couples and unfortunately the ending point for too many. Many do not know that If the parent not having the primary possession of the child wants additional time, that parent can elect an Expanded Possession Order at the time the order is rendered. The Standard Possession Order provides for visitation beginning at 6:00 pm on Fridays and ending at 6:00 pm on the following Sunday on the 1st, 3rd and 5th weekends of each month. This weekend schedule, along with the holiday and summer schedules within statute allow about 91 overnight visits. The Standard order also allows for two hours on Thursdays during the school year.

There is an optional Expanded Possession Order. The authority for this order is §153.317 of the Texas Family Code. This Expanded Possession Order must be entered upon the request of the possessory conservator unless the judge finds that the Expanded Possession Order is not in the best interest of the child. Under this order the weekend period begins when school lets out on Friday rather than at 6:00 pm. The period ends when school starts on Mondays rather than at 6:00 pm on Sunday. Thursdays are increased from two hours to when school dismisses on Thursdays until school starts on Friday morning. Other holiday schedules are increased to beginning and ending when school ends and starts. This election adds approximately 19 Sunday evenings and 35 Thursday nights, increasing the total number of overnights with the child to about 145. The exact number of days will vary due to the school schedule and how weekends fall during any year.

There are a number of other options that can be crafted outside of the standard or expanded orders. The court can approve any schedule that the parties agree with. These may include a "fireman's schedule", a 50/50 schedule (such as alternating weeks), a graduated schedule for children under 3 years old, or other such customized order when a one parent may not work a traditional Monday through Friday work week. A family law attorney can help you craft an order that provides for the minimum disruption to the child's and parents' schedules.

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