In Texas, the best interest of the child shall always be the primary consideration of the court when determining conservatorship and possession of and access to the child. There is a presumption in Texas, that the Standard Possession Order is in the best interest of any child over the age of three. However, this presumption is rebuttable, if you can show it is not in the best interest of the child, or if the child’s safety and well-being are a concern. Parents can also agree to a modified possession order; which can include alternating weeks, split weeks, day visits, or a wide array of other possibilities. If you find yourself in a position where you are making decisions regarding splitting your time with your child with the other parent, it is important to keep in mind what is best for the child, not you. In order to make that decision, it is important to know what each option looks like; standard possession, expanded standard, or a creative possession schedule.
Standard Possession Order
A standard possession order is a visitation schedule that allows the noncustodial parent to have the child on the first, third, and fifth weekend of every month. The holidays are split up evenly and rotate between the conservators each year. It is important to note that the weekend is based off Fridays if the month starts on a Saturday, that is not the first weekend, the first weekend would be the following Friday.
Expanded Standard Possession Order
An expanded standard possession order is similar to the standard possession order discussed above; however, the weekend begins on Thursday evening instead of Friday evening. This allows the noncustodial parent just a tad bit more time with the child than the standard possession order, but still not as much as the custodial parent.
Creative Possession Schedule
Sometimes, a standard or expanded standard possession schedule just does not work for the parties. The Court allows for flexibility and if the parties come up with an agreement that is outside of the normal, more times than not, they will allow it. Some parents decide on a 50/50 parenting plan, or some have jobs that may interfere with the standard order, so a modified order has to be implemented.
A 50/50 possession schedule has many different varieties. It can be a week on and week off schedule, or some parents prefer a 2-2-3 schedule. During a week on and a week off schedule, you have a set day every week that the switch takes place, it can be whatever day works best for the parties involved. During a 2-2-3 schedule, say mom has Monday and Tuesday, dad has Wednesday and Thursday, and mom gets the child back for Friday through Sunday for the first week. The next week, dad would be the conservator who has 5 days and mom would have 2 days.
Holiday Possession Schedule Trumps All
It is important to remember that the holiday possession schedule will trump any and all normal periods of possession and access. The clause regarding such should still be kept in the order. Once the holiday possession time has ended, the normal possession schedule should resume and the parent who did not have the child at the ending time of the holiday schedule should have actual possession of the child, to begin with.
Child Under the Age of 3
There is also a schedule for children under the age of 3 before the court. Here, it allows a step-up plan. There is not set in stone schedule and the courts allow the parents to determine the best interest of the child. This could be something like:
- For the first 4 months, Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 6pm to 7pm at the residence of the custodial parent.
- The next 2 months, Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 6pm to 8pm with supervision by the custodial parent, unless supervision is waived by agreement.
Or it could be a schedule that has requirements attached to the order; such as:
- For the first 3 months, the first, third, and fifth Monday, Wednesday, and Friday of the month, from 6pm to 7pm at the custodial parent’s residence. After successfully completing all required visits, the noncustodial parent can move to the next phase.
There is plenty of wiggle room within the available options, but it is up to the parties to determine which works best for their children.
Make Sure It Is Workable
Whatever type of possession schedule you decide to go with, make sure it is one that is workable for everyone involved. More times than not, a modification of possession and access time could have been avoided, had the parties thought ahead. Take the time and consider not only now, but the future, before putting an order in place. If your child is not in school yet and the parties live in different cities, take that into account when determining the custody arrangement. If 50/50 is ordered in this scenario, once the child starts school, either one parent will be driving a lot when it is their day or week, one parent will need to consider relocating, or they will have to modify their existing order to change the possession and access. Not only is this costly, but it also takes a toll on the child, they have become accustomed to a certain routine and way of life and now that will have to be changed. So, whatever you decide on, think about the present and the future.
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