Last Updated on March 29, 2022 by Benson Varghese
Child visitation can be one of the most contentious issues in divorce and custody cases. That’s why the Texas legislature created a visitation schedule – called the Standard Possession Order (SPO) – for parents to follow if they can’t come to a mutual agreement on possession times and days.
The SPO is an order issued by the judge that spells out the days and times that the noncustodial parent has the right to possess the child. In this article, we will go over Texas Standard Possession Order, as well as the Expanded Possession Order and a new provision in law that automatically increased visitation times for non-custodial parents who live within 50 miles of their child.
What is Texas Standard Possession Order?
Texas Standard Possession Order specifies the noncustodial parent’s visitation schedule, including weekends, holidays, spring break, summer vacation and other important events in the child’s life. The Standard Possession Order is known as the “default” schedule. However, the non-custodial parent can also choose an “election” schedule that offers different and expanded possession times based on how far the parents live from one another. Parents can elect:
The “50 Miles Apart or Less” is the newest provision to the law, which we will discuss later.
What is an Expanded Standard Possession Order?
An ESPO is just what it sounds like — an expanded version of an SPO. It gives the noncustodial parent more time with the child, such as more overnight visits and longer summer vacations. Recently, there was a change in the Texas law that automatically gives non-custodial parents who live within 50 miles of the custodial parent even more time with their children.
What is the new 50-mile visitation law?
New rules went into effect on September 1, 2021, that added more visitation for non-custodial parents who live within 50 miles of the custodial parent. Senate Bill 1936, also called the “equal parenting” or “shared parenting bill,” allows the non-custodial parent to possess the child more than 40 percent of the time (Prior to the bill, non-custodial parents had the child only 20 to 24 percent of the time.) The legislature has been working on this in an effort to give the non-custodial parent more time with their children.
The new 50-mile possession order is not mandatory
If the new 50-mile possession order is not conducive for the non-custodial parent, they can elect not to have the expanded visitation. The parents would continue to share custody according to the Standard Possession Order before September 1, 2021.
What’s the difference between a Texas Standard Possession Order (SPO) and Expanded Standard Possession Order (ESPO)?
The key differences between a Standard Possession Order and Expanded Standard Possession Order for 50 miles or less are laid out in the table below.
|Visitation Type||Texas Standard Possession Order||Expanded Standard Possession Order|
|Weekends||First, third and fifth weekends from 6 p.m. Friday until 6 p.m. Sunday||First, third and fifth weekend beginning when school lets out Friday and until school resumes on Monday.|
|Thursday Nights||Pickup at 6 p.m. on Thursday and drop-off at 8 p.m.||Pickup at the time school is dismissed and drop-off at the time school resumes on Friday.|
|Spring Break||Alternates yearly between parents, from 6 p.m. on day school lets out until 6 p.m. the night before school resumes.||Alternates yearly between parents, from the time when school lets out for Spring Break until 6 p.m. the night before school resumes.|
|Thanksgiving Break||Alternates yearly between parents. Pickup time is 6 p.m. on the day school lets out and drop off is 6 p.m. on Sunday.||Alternates yearly between parents. Pickup is when school lets out for Thanksgiving break and drop-off at 6 p.m. on Sunday.|
|Christmas Break (Even Numbered Years)||Alternates yearly between parents. Pickup time is 6 p.m. on the day school is dismissed and drop-off at noon on December 28.||Alternates yearly between parents. Pickup is when school lets out for Christmas break and drop-off at noon on December 28.|
|Christmas Break (Odd Number Years)||Pickup at noon on December 28 and drop off on the day before school resumes for the holiday.||Pickup at noon on December 28 and drop off at 6 p.m. on the day before school resumes for the holiday.|
|Mothers Day||Mom picks up child at 6 p.m. Friday and returns child 6 p.m. on Mother’s Day.||Mom picks up child when school lets out Friday and returns child when school resumes Monday after Mother’s Day.|
|Father’s Day||Father picks up child at 6 p.m. on Friday and returns child at 6 p.m. on Father’s Day.||Pickup at 6 p.m. on the Friday before Father’s Day and drop-off is 8 a.m. on the Monday after Father’s Day.|
|Weekend Visitation Followed by Monday Student Holiday or Teacher In-Service Day||Drop-off at 6 p.m. Monday.||Drop-off at 8 a.m. on Tuesday.|
Can the court modify a possession order?
Absolutely! The court can modify the standard order based on the best interests of the child. One example of when a court would modify the Texas Standard Possession Order is when the child is very young. Texas has provisions in the family code that are often referred to as “tender years” provisions, which apply to a child under three years old. The court will often order shorter visits for very young children. The periods of possession will become longer until the Standard Possession Order is appropriate.
Custody and Visitation Issues? Let Us Help You.
If you need help with custody or visitation issues, you’re in the right place. At Varghese Summersett Family Law Group, we understand how difficult these issues can be. Contact us today at 817-900-3220 to schedule a consultation. We will explain the Texas Standard Possession Order and work to find a parenting schedule that is right for you. We will facilitate the best possible custody arrangement for you and your child.