One of the most difficult decisions that you will have to make in your divorce is child custody and visitation. You will need to consider many circumstances, like whether your spouse wants primary custody or who the children will live with, if your ex-spouse moves out of state.
Fortunately, Texas provides an opportunity for you and your spouse to negotiate these types of arrangements for your children. One of the court orders that will help make your San Antonio child custody arrangements easier is a standard possession order.
Explaining the Texas standard possession order
A standard possession order (SPO) is a part of a child custody order that helps establish a schedule for each parent. In custody orders, visitation is broken down as access and possession. Unless the judge deems a parent as a threat to the child, each parent has the right to actively raise their child. With a standard possession order, the judge sets a standard visitation schedule that allows each parent to spend time with their child.
What is the “under three” provision?
Texas courts establish a standard possession order for children three years of age or older. If the child is under three years old, the judge will set a schedule that they believe is appropriate. However, for children three years of age or older, the STO allows parents to have possession of their children whenever they both agree. The standard possession order also helps parents to have a reasonable schedule if they live less than 100 miles apart.
Parents living within 50 miles of one another
If you or your spouse are worried about relocating with your children and maintaining a fair schedule for visitation, a standard possession order helps to prevent that issue from happening. With an STO in place, the non-custodial parent can have possession of the children on the first, third, and fifth weekends of the month. This schedule begins on Friday, usually around the time school lets out or around an agreed time in the evening.
The schedule only applies when the parents are within 50 miles of one another. When the parents live more than 100 miles apart, the non-custodial parent can choose to have visitation either between the first, third, and fifth weekends of the month or one weekend per month.
Setting holiday visitation schedules
Standard possession orders also help set holiday visitation schedules for parents. The time children will spend with each parent during holidays will be divided between parents based on even and odd years. For example, the children can spend one holiday with one parent in even years, while the other parent can have the children in odd years. Even though the STO only covers holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas, you and your spouse can customize and provide visitation schedules for any and every holiday you can think of.
Setting summer visitation schedules
Another visitation schedule that a standard possession order helps with is the summer visitation schedule. With an STO in place, the non-custodial parent is allowed to have the children for 30 consecutive days in the summer. The non-custodial parent is also responsible for sharing with the other parent the 30 days that they want by the first of April. After April 1st, the 30 days will automatically default from July 1st to July 31st.
The location of the other parent also extends the amount of time that the non-custodial parent has with the children during the summer. For parents who live more than 100 miles apart, the non-custodial parent is allowed to have the children for 42 days instead of 30 days. The non-custodial parent must inform the other parent by April 1st; otherwise, the 42-day period will automatically begin from June 15th to July 27th.
What are the benefits of a standard possession order?
A standard possession order can help you, your ex-spouse, and your children in several ways. If you are concerned about your ex moving out of state and taking your children with them, a standard possession order helps keep your spouse accountable. With an STO in place, your spouse cannot just move and take your children without your permission or refuse to allow you to see your children. You have the opportunity to involve the courts if your visitation schedule is denied.
Having a standard possession order helps bring a routine to you and your family following a divorce. An STO allows you and your spouse to set daily, weekly, monthly, and even yearly scheduled visits with your children. This prevents any misunderstandings during the summertime and the holidays, and gives your children a bit of structure during a San Antonio divorce.
Expanded standard possession order
If you are the non-custodial parent, you may still have issues with the visitation schedule set by the standard possession order. You may be concerned that you are not spending a fair amount of time with your children. In that case, you and your attorney can request the courts to consider an expanded standard possession order.
When the parents live within 50 miles of one another, an expanded standard possession order allows the non-custodial parent to spend additional time with their children. For example, you might be able to spend more time with your kids, like picking them up after school on Thursday afternoon and returning them to school on Monday. If there is any tension between you and your spouse, this can help prevent any issues when the two of you are dropping the children off. Your lawyer can work with you to come up with these types of creative solutions.
There is nothing more stressful than figuring out custody and visitation arrangements for your child during or after a divorce. At Grable Grimshaw PLLC, our San Antonio child custody attorneys can make it easier. We want to act in the best interests of your children and your family. To find out how we can help you make the adjustment as smooth as possible following your divorce, schedule a consultation today. Call us at 210-963-5297, or fill out our contact form.