What Exactly is a Standard Possession Order?

A Breakdown of the Texas Standard Possession Order

What Exactly is a Standard Possession Order?

A Breakdown of the Texas Standard Possession Order

What is a Standard Possession Order (SPO) in Texas?

The Texas Legislature has made clear in the Texas Family Code §§153.3101 through 153.317, that a Standard Possession Order (or SPO) is in the best interest of the child. This is a presumption that may be rebutted if not in the child’s best interest. While many parents know generally what a Standard Possession Order entails (every other weekend, alternating holidays, etc.), the particulars are often unclear. The Texas Family Code provides complete details of the possession order, down to the time of and location of pickup and drop off. Additionally, there are three versions of a Standard Possession Order, which include: Standard Possession Order when the parents live under 100 miles apart (“Basic SPO”); Standard Possession Order when the parents live over 100 miles apart (“Over 100 miles”); and Alternative Beginning and Ending Possession Times (“Expanded SPO”). It is important to note that if the non-primary parent elects an Expanded SPO, the Court shall order the expanded version unless it is not in the children’s best interest. This article will break down each.

Mutual Agreement:

The first caveat to an SPO is that the parents shall have the children at all times mutually agreed to in advance. This means the parties will follow the SPO when they cannot agree otherwise and gives the parents latitude to make agreements best for them and the children. Often, however, parents find it is beneficial to stick to the SPO, even if loosely.

Weekends:

Basic SPO – A basic SPO provides that the non-primary parent will have the child on the 1st, 3rd, and 5th weekends of each month, beginning at 6:00 p.m. on Friday and ending at 6:00 p.m. on the following Sunday.

Over 100 Miles – The non-primary parent can elect to either have the child on the 1st, 3rd, and 5th weekend of each month, beginning at 6:00 p.m. on Friday and ending at 6:00 p.m. on the following Sunday, or one weekend per month of that parent’s choosing (beginning at 6:00 p.m. Friday and ending at 6:00 p.m. Sunday), provided that parent gives 14 days’ notice preceding the designated weekend.

Expanded SPO – During the school year, the non-primary parent will have the child on the 1st, 3rd, and 5th weekends of each month, beginning when the child’s school is dismissed on Friday and ending when school resumes the following Monday. During the summer, weekend possession is 6:00 p.m. Friday to 6:00 p.m. Sunday.

*Caveat – Holidays that occur on Mondays and Fridays extend weekend possession times for each version of the SPO.

Thursdays During the School Year:

Basic SPO – Every Thursday during the school year, beginning at 6:00 p.m. and ending at 8:00 p.m. that day.

Over 100 Miles – No Thursday possession.

Expanded SPO – Every Thursday during the school year, beginning when the child’s school is dismissed on Thursday and ending when school resumes on Friday.

Spring Break:

Basic SPO – Spring Break in even-numbered years, beginning at 6:00 p.m. on the day the child’s school is dismissed and ending at 6:00 p.m. on the day before school resumes.

Over 100 Miles – Spring Break every year, beginning at 6:00 p.m. on the day the child’s school is dismissed and ending at 6:00 p.m. on the day before school resumes.

Expanded SPO – Spring Break in even-numbered years beginning when the child’s school is dismissed for the spring vacation and ending at 6:00 p.m. on the day before school resumes.

Extended Summer Possession:

Basic SPO and Expanded SPO – The non-primary parent will have the child for 30 days during the summer. If written notice is given to the other parent by April 1, the non-primary parent can have his or her 30 days in up to two separate periods of at least 7 days each that year. Without such notice, the non-primary parent will have possession from July 1 to July 31.

Over 100 Miles – The non-primary parent will have the child for 42 days during the summer. With written notice by April 1, the non-primary parent may elect to exercise his or her 42 days in up to two separate periods of possession of at least 7 days each. Without such notice, the non-primary parent will have possession from June 15 to July 27.

  • With notice to the other parent by April 15, the primary parent may elect one weekend with the children during the non-primary parent’s extended summer possession. If the non-primary parent will have the child for over 30 consecutive days during the summer, the non-primary parent may elect up to 2 non-consecutive weekends.
  • With written notice by April 15 (or 14 days’ written notice after April 16) the primary parent may elect one weekend during which a scheduled weekend by the non-primary parent will not occur. The primary parent takes away one of the other’s 1st, 3rd or 5th weekends during the summer outside the 30 or 42 day extended period. This weekend must not interfere with the non-primary parent’s extended summer possession. This weekend gives the primary parent an extended period of possession by giving that parent 2-3 weekends in a row with the children.

Holiday Possession

Holiday periods of possession under a Standard Possession Order are unaffected by distance.

Christmas in Even-Numbered Years – The non-primary parent will have the children beginning at 6:00 p.m. on the day school dismisses for the Christmas school vacation (or beginning when school is dismissed with an expanded SPO) and ending at noon on December 28.

Christmas in Odd-Numbered Years – The non-primary parent will have the children beginning at noon on December 28 and ending at 6:00 p.m. on the day before school resumes after the school’s Christmas vacation.

Thanksgiving in Odd-Numbered Years – The non-primary parent will have the children beginning at 6:00 p.m. on the day school dismisses for the Thanksgiving vacation (or beginning when school is dismissed with an expanded SPO) and ending at 6:00 p.m. on the following Sunday.

Childs Birthday – The parent non entitled to possession of the child on his or her birthday will have the child (and usually the child’s siblings) from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. on that day.

Mother’s Day and Father’s Day – Each parent (mother or father) will have the child on the respective parent’s holiday, beginning at 6:00 p.m. on the Friday preceding Mother’s Day or Father’s Day, and ending at 6:00 p.m. on Mother’s Day or Father’s Day. Mother gets all Mother’s Day Weekend; and dad gets all Father’s Day Weekend. The Texas Family Code says nothing about same sex parents. That must be resolved before the order is signed.

Here is a sample Expanded SPO schedule based on one Texas school district’s calendar.