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What is a Standard Possession Order in Texas Family Law?


In family law, child custody cases may happen as an effect of divorce or as a stand-alone case to be resolved by the court. When courts issue decisions concerning child custody, there may be a need to address matters of visitation to give each parent time with their child. In Texas, a visitation order is referred to as a possession order. 

A possession order tells when each parent, or sometimes a non-parent, has the right to spend time with a child. Hence, the term possession. Texas has several types of possession orders: Standard Possession Order, Modified Possession Orders, Possession Orders for a Child under three (3) years of age, and Supervised Possession Orders. 

What is a Standard Possession Order (SPO)?   

The Texas family law says that when there is a consensual agreement between the parents, an uncontested possession order case, each of them may have possession of their child. However, in a case where the parents do not agree, the non-custodial parent has the right to possession of the child subject to the requirements provided by the law.

The law presumes that the Standard Possession Order is in the best interest of a child and the courts may modify the SPO depending on the needs and interest of such child.  

Purpose

The purpose of this under Texas family laws is to use the Standard Possession Order as a guide for determining and dividing the time of parents with their child. This is to protect the best interest and welfare of the child when it comes to practical determinations about the access and possession of his or her non-custodial parent, as well as the days each parent (custodial and non-custodial) can have with their child. 

How do SPOs work? 

Judges issue possession orders as part of a divorce case, a suit affecting the parent-child relationship case, a paternity case, or a family violence protective order case. In cases of family violence, Texas judges must consider pieces of evidence concerning said violence when making decisions for child custody and visitation, such as the determination of who is the abusive parent and whether the latter has visitation rights on his or her child.

In uncontested possession orders, there may be no need for an attorney for both parents may fill up SPO forms. However, if you have a contested case, it is best to hire a lawyer to ask for advice.  

Mostly, SPOs may be used as a starting point for negotiations between the parents, which may later on be altered to account for individual and particular circumstances of each, including the child. 

What if you have a child older than 3-years-old?

A child older than the age of 3 is considered by law as a School-Age Child. Since the child is considered to be attending school, the custodial parent may have possession of the child for most days in a week, while the non-custodial parent may have predetermined times of possession. 

What if you have a child younger than 3-years-old?

In your case, the courts will have to consider several factors in deciding for the SPO. Two of these factors may be you and the other parent’s availability and any distress the child might experience when separated from each of you for longer periods of time.

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Mr. Hutton is a Divorce and Custody Lawyer based out of Round Rock, TX. His background is with child psychology at Arizona State University where he received a B.S. in 2006, and he continued this by working with the Children’s Right’s Clinic at the University of Texas School of Law where he received his J.D. in 2009. Throughout his practice, he has been a strong proponent of utilizing modern technology to improve his practice and the representation of his clients. He currently is the technology chair of CAFA of Travis County and is committed to improving and modernizing the practice of law in Texas. If you have any questions you can contact him at timothy.hutton@austintexaslegal.com

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