When there are minor children in a paternity or divorce case, invariably you will find an access and possession order in the final decree. Usually the first “dispositive” part of the decree involves custody, then access and possession. The courts routinely require that the decree contain a listing of the rights and powers of parent conservators. These powers and rights are to be exercised by agreement, independently, or exclusively by each parent. The parties in a case involving minor children need to pay special attention to how these rights and powers are to be allocated between the parties.
Then the final decree will address the type of access and possession to be awarded to each parent. Years ago the Texas legislature created what is called the Standard Possession Order (SPO). This order comprehensively addresses all aspects of access and possession: weekends, summers, spring/fall intersessions, holidays, Father’s Day, Mother’s Day and the children’s birthdays. The SPO even covers access and possession awarded a parent who lives more than 100 miles from the child or children. Most decrees actually dictate that the parties can exercise their visits by mutual agreement and then add that if the parties cannot reach an agreement then the SPO will apply.
The Texas Legislature has provided for what is called the SPO-extended. This “extends” a weekend possession to begin when school ends on Friday and ends Monday morning when school begins. The regular SPO has the weekend begin at 6:00 p.m. on Friday and to end at 6:00 p.m. the following Sunday. During the academic year the 6:00 p.m.-to 8:00 p.m.–Thursday evening possession is replaced by a Thursday overnight, beginning when school ends on Thursday and extending to the following Friday morning when school begins.
The vast majority of access and possession orders are either governed by the SPO or the SPO extended. However, the parties can also “custom design” an access and possession order that allows the parties to create orders that address work schedules, military deployments, alternating shift schedules, “shared possessions” such as 50/50 type possessions and electronic visitations.
These access and possession orders remain in effect until a child ages out at age 18. From the date of a decree containing an access and possession order until the child turns 18 there may be a need to modify the order addressing access and possession. That is why the courts in Texas retain jurisdiction of a case and will address access and possession issues until a child ages out at age 18.
If you are a party be careful not to leave this part of the decree out!! Our law firm has handled literally 1,000’s of cases involving access and possession orders. If you need assistance in your divorce case or any other case in which access and possession orders will be addressed please call us. We are standing by to help. Call us at 915-6600 or 915-256-0579.