If you’re a parent sharing custody of your child, a Texas standard possession order (SPO) is likely an important part of your life. These terms of the court order outline your child’s visitation time with each parent. It is designed first and foremost to ensure your child’s well-being.

But you have rights too, and your child’s well-being usually entails having access to both parents. Before you leave court, make absolutely certain that your custody agreement includes everything you need it to — including the SPO’s minimum requirements. The Alsandor Law Firm can help you with that.

How Can I Be Sure I Have a Texas Standard Possession Order?

Pay close attention in court, and ask your attorney to make sure that is what you’re getting (assuming you do want a SPO). Also, check the section of the order titled “Possession and Access.” If you see that the provisions for the non-custodial parent are what we’ve listed above in the section titled “It’s the minimum required by law,” or very similar, then you have a SPO.

With or without a SPO, you still have specific parental rights and responsibilities.

Possession and Access: What’s the Difference?

Possession is when you have the child with you, and can legally take them where you want. Access is interaction with your child, usually from a distance. You can talk to them on the phone or through video apps, communicate through social media, attend extracurricular events like plays and ballgames.  It can also include supervised visitation.

The SPO Sets Terms for Parenting Time

Your child will live with the custodial parent most of the time, but at the very least, the Texas standard possession order allows the non-custodial parent to have time with the child:

  • Every Thursday night, either from when school lets out or 6 PM, until 8 PM.
  • The first, third and fifth weekends of every month. Weekends start on Friday, either from when school lets out or at 6 PM, and last until Sunday at 6 PM or the next school morning. 
  • Alternating holidays. This means:
    • The child spends every other holiday or special day with you.
    • The following year, the order changes. For instance, if the child spends Christmas with you this year, he or she will spend Thanksgiving and New Years with the other parent next year. 
  • At least one month each summer.

Unless otherwise agreed, the receiving parent picks up the child. In other words, the non-custodial parent picks the child up from the agreed-upon location when they have possession, and returns the child to the custodial parent.

If you and the other parent live more than 100 miles apart, the court may set additional visitation rules.

Does the Court Always Order an SPO?

A Texas standard possession order is standard, hence the name. However, there can be exceptions. One is when the parents work out a reasonable schedule that the court approves. Another is when the court feels the SPO is not in the child’s best interest. The court may set an alternative schedule limiting the non-custodial parent’s contact if any interested party presents convincing evidence that:

  • The non-custodial parent has had little or no contact with the child in the past.
  • Family violence is a distinct possibility.
  • The child is younger than three years, and any contact by the non-custodial parent was infrequent prior to the custody order.
  • Other reasons.

Is My Texas Standard Possession Order Set in Stone?

Not necessarily. As outlined above, you and your child’s other parent can set up any reasonable customized schedule that works for both of you if the court allows it. However, if you can’t agree, usually a SPO goes into effect.

What Is an Expanded Standard Possession Order?

An expanded SPO is very similar to a standard SPO, but it allows the non-custodial parent more time with their child. You can pick and drop off your child from and to school for all visits during the school year, meaning you can have them overnight every Thursday during the school year and overnight Sunday on your weekends. This is also something you can elect when the details of the order are decided and cannot be blocked by the custodial parent without good cause.

A Houston Child Custody Lawyer Can Help

To learn more about a Texas standard possession order or expanded possession order, speak to an attorney at The Alsandor Law Firm today. We can answer your questions, inform you of your rights, and help you make sure that you protect the interests of your child.