What You Can Expect from an SPO in a Texas Divorce Proceeding
In divorce proceedings where there are minor children involved, one of the most difficult disputes to resolve involves custody and visitation, also referred to in Texas as possession and parenting time. When the court issues a final divorce decree in Texas, the custody order typically contains a “standard possession order” (SPO), which provides a schedule setting forth each parent’s time with minor children. The standard SPO provides the non-custodial parent with certain minimum visitation, including:
- Time with the child on Thursday nights
- Visitation on the 1st, 3rd and 5th weekend of every month
- Visitation on alternating holidays
- Visitation for one full month each summer
If the custodial and non-custodial parents live more than 100 miles apart, the schedule is different. Under those circumstances, the Thursday night visit is eliminated and the weekend schedule may be subject to reduction (based on the agreement of the parents). Holidays are treated the same, but the SPO for parents living more than 100 miles apart calls for 42 days of consecutive visitation in the summer.
It is important to understand that parents with an SPO have the freedom to agree to any schedule that works for them, but must follow the provisions set forth in the SPO if they cannot come up with a schedule that works for both of them. Furthermore, the court may amend the standard provisions of the SPO if the minor child is less than three years old.
While there is a significant amount of flexibility built into the Texas laws governing possession and parenting time, courts will nonetheless ensure that any agreements between the parties are in the best interests of the minor child.
The Standard Possession Order Is Assumed to Establish the Minimum Amount of Visitation
Under Texas practice, the visitation set forth above is generally considered to identify the most basic rights to visitation. However, an SPO may be modified to include less access if the custodial parent can show that it’s in the child’s best interests to limit visitation. Factors that may support such a finding include:
- The non-custodial parent has had little or no prior contact with the minor child.
- The non-custodial parent has a documented history of domestic violence or abuse.
- The non-custodial parent has engaged in illegal activity, substance abuse, or other potentially harmful activities while the child was in his or her possession.
Is There a Difference Between Possession and Access?
Texas family law courts make a distinction between possession by a non-custodial parent and access to a minor child by a non-custodial parent. Possession entitles a parent to share the physical company of the minor child, whereas access may involve physical contact, but can also be limited to phone, text messages, or videoconferencing by Zoom, Skype, or FaceTime.
Contact the Divorce and Family Law Attorneys at Bailey & Galyen
At the law office of Bailey & Galyen, we offer a free initial consultation to every client. For an appointment with an experienced Texas family law attorney, contact us by e-mail or call our offices at 844-402-2992. We will take your call 24 hours a day, seven days a week.