Standard Possession Orders and Parenting Plans
Under Texas law, a non-custodial parent of a child is presumed to be entitled to what's called a "Standard Possession Order" or "SPO". This presumption exists unless a party can prove to a court that a standard possession order is not in the best interest of the child. In order to overcome this presumption, a party must demonstrate that there has been a history of child abuse and/or neglect, domestic violence, the child is under (3) three, or that the parent has had little to no contact with the child. A standard possession order is the minimum amount of possession a non-custodial parent is presumed to be entitled to.
An expanded possession order, as the name suggests, provides for expanded possession of a child for the non-custodial parent. Expanded possession orders will be discussed in another post.
Before I explain what an SPO consists of, it is important to understand what the terms "custodial parent" and "noncustodial parent" mean. A "custodial parent" is the parent who has the exclusive right to designate the primary residence of the child; in other words, where the child will live. A "non-custodial parent" does not have this right.
A standard possession order gives the non-custodial parent possession of the child every 1st, 3rd, and fifth weekend, as well as, a few hours every Thursday during the school year.
1st, 3rd, and fifth weekend possession begins on Friday at either 6 P.M., or when the child's school is regularly dismissed, until 6 P.M. the following Sunday.
Thursday possession also begins at 6 P.M., or when the child is dismissed from school, until 8 P.M. the same day.
The non-custodial parent also receives thirty (30) days of possession in the summer, and possession on alternating holidays and spring breaks. A standard possession order contains provisions for mother's day, father's day, and the child's birthdays, and provisions for parents residing greater than 100 miles from each other (to be discussed in a separate post).
Summer possession works one of two ways: 1) either the non-custodial parent gives written notice as to the preferred dates and times during the summer he/she would like the child. And then may exercise 30 days of possession no sooner than the day after the child is excused from school and ending no sooner than 7 days before the child is to resume school. The extended summer possession must be exercised in no more than two separate periods of at least seven consecutive days each as specified in the written notice; or 2) if the non-custodial parent does not give written notice to the custodial parent, possession, he/she shall have possession of the child beginning at 6 P.M. on July 1st and ending at 6 P.M. on July 31st.
A standard possession order is the default, and most courts encourage parents to be flexible when dealing with the custody of children. Parents are free to come up with their own parenting plan amongst each other. However, it is important to remember that if there is a disagreement amongst the parties, any informal parenting plan is not enforceable in court.