Divorce is frequently messy, but all parents want what is best for their kids. In many cases, they wish to see their children as often as possible even if their relationship with their spouses didn’t work out. Although concepts like visitation and partial custody are commonly understood, it can be tough to know just how often you will see your kids after a divorce.
Below, you’ll find a breakdown of standard divorce possession and visitation schedules according to Texas law. We’ll also go over the factors that may affect how frequently you can see your kids after a divorce.
The Standard Possession Order and Schedule
When parents divorce, Texas uses a standard set of rules that apply to child visitation and custody in divorce proceedings. Called the “Standard Possession Order”, it applies to any children over three years of age and is automatically assumed to be in their best interest.
This matters because all Texas laws regarding children in divorce cases are written to promote the optimal outcome for the children, not necessarily the parents. Both you and your co-parent will be instructed to behave according to whatever is best for your child’s well-being. Most parents accept these decisions even with shared parenting.
For example, if both parents want custody of their children, but one parent is demonstrably more fit to have sole custody, the court will be more likely to award sole custody to that parent than to award joint custody.
The Standard Possession Order is based on the Texas Family Code and specifically concerns the dates and times at which one or both parents have possession of children, including during holiday times. Below is a breakdown of the Standard Possession Order. The “possessory” conservator is the parent who exercises possession of the child(ren) or requests time with them from the other parent (typically the primary caregiver).
Note that the below guidelines are just frameworks for individual divorce mandates. Parents can work within these constraints but do not necessarily need to adhere to them to the letter, especially if they have a good co-parenting relationship.
For instance, divorcing parents who live close to one another may decide to keep children with a primary custodian most of the time, but provide visitation for the second parent on only the first and third Fridays each month (see below).
Divorcing Parents Are 100 Miles or Less Apart
If the parents are 100 miles or less apart, the possessory parent has the right to possession under the following circumstances even if they have little or no contact:
- On standard weekends beginning at 6 PM on the first, third, and fifth Friday each month. The possession ends at 6 PM on the following Sunday
- On Thursdays each week during the school year beginning at 6 PM and ending at 8 PM. This may only be overturned if the court finds that Thursday visits aren’t in the child(ren)’s best interests
- On spring break falling on even-numbered years from 6 PM on the day children are dismissed from school to 6 PM the day before school resumes
- On Summers for 30 consecutive days starting at 6 PM on July 1 and ending at 6 PM on July 31. Alternatively, the possessory parent may pursue an extended summer possession if the possessory parent provides written notice by April 1 of the same year to the other parent
Divorcing Parents Are Over 100 Miles Apart
The Standard Possession Order takes the transportation difficulties of parents who are over 100 miles away from each other into account. These guidelines attempt to avoid one parent from becoming an absent parent compared to the custodial parent.
If the possessory parent is 100 miles from the primary residence of their children, they have the right to possession under the following circumstances:
- On standard weekends throughout the year from 6 PM on the first, third, and fifth Friday each month to 6 PM on the following Sunday
- Alternatively, the non-custodial parent may exercise the right to possession on any weekend of their choice provided that they give proper notice to the other parent
- On spring break each year from 6 PM on the day kids are dismissed from school until 6 PM the day before school resumes
- Any extended period of 42 consecutive days in the summer with proper written notice ahead of time
Holiday Possession Rules
The Standard Possession Order outlines holiday possession rules regardless of the distance between parents in a divorce. Non-custodial parents have the right to visitation with their children on holidays under the following circumstances:
- On Christmas Day on even-numbered years
- On Thanksgiving day on odd-numbered years
- On Father’s Day if the possessory parent is a father and on Mother’s Day if the possessory parent is a mother. This is more often divorced fathers because fathers are more often possessory
Schedules Based on Mutual Agreement with the Other Parent
In more amicable divorce proceedings, many parents may set up mutually agreed possession schedules that are different from the Standard Possession Order, even if their children stay at sole residential homes and visit a possessory parent.
For example, if it works best for both parents’ schedules to have the possessory parent exercise custody on the second and fourth Fridays each month, they may follow that schedule instead of the Standard Possession Order.
In other words, the Standard Possession Order is the default possessory schedule if one or both parents can’t agree to an alternative.
Visitation for Young Children (3 and Under)
The Standard Possession Order is not necessarily in the best interests of children if they are less than three years old. Your family court will instead “render an order appropriate under the circumstance” based on what is most appropriate to your family and your child(ren)’s specific needs. The court will consider factors like:
- Which parent is the main carer in the child’s life during and prior to the divorce? The child’s relationship with both parents will also be taken into account
- Whether the children have special physical, medical, or developmental needs that divorced parents need to account for
- Which of the two parents is more available and willing to give care to the child(ren)
- Whether the young child has any siblings during periods of possession with your ex-spouse or the residential parent
- And more
Supervised Visitation Rules for One Parent
In some circumstances, supervised possession or visitation may be the only option for a possessory parent. For example, if the possessory parent has a history of incarceration or domestic violence, the court may allow visitation only when the meeting is supervised by the other parent or another adult party.
How a Family Law Attorney Can Help
As you can see, the exact visitation and possessory schedule for your children may vary depending on the specifics of your case, the age of your child(ren), and the distance from your soon-to-be former spouse. It’s vital to secure a good visitation schedule for your children during the initial divorce proceedings.
For that, you should contact experienced family law attorneys like Maynard Law Firm. At Maynard Law Firm, you’ll find empathetic, knowledgeable individuals who will have your back during your divorce case and who can help you get the optimal outcome for you and your children with sound legal advice. Contact us today for more information and a free consultation.