How does the Texas “Standard Possession Schedule” work?

Over the years, the Texas Legislature has looked at and repeatedly refined what we now refer to as the “Standard Possession Schedule.” The reason we have a very detailed schedule is simple — many parents cannot agree as to the best schedule for their children. Therefore, the Texas Legislature has stepped in to set out its own schedule.

The so-called “Standard” Schedule usually gives the conservator/parent that does not have the right to designate the primary residence of the child (in a Joint Conservatorship) or the Possessory Conservator in all other situations, the right of possession and access to the child on the first, third and fifth weekends (when there is one) of every month. The Standard Schedule attempts to make an even distribution (or as close to even that it can) of each and every minute of the child’s life between the respective parents; this includes all major holidays, the child’s birthday, Father’s Day, Mother’s Day, spring break, extended summer visits, and many, many other situations. The Standard Schedule also sets out who will pick up and who will drop off the child, and where and how this exchange of possession will occur. Although this is a daunting task, under most situations, the Standard Schedule does an excellent job of allocating the child’s time with each parent in a fair and equitable manner.

The danger in departing from the Standard Schedule (under most situations) is that lawyers cannot always contemplate all of the situations that can arise in the future, which may lead to future confusion or disagreements between the conservators. This is not to say that the Standard Schedule is what is best for your child; we recognize that there are situations where the Standard Schedule is partially or completely inappropriate. However, you should understand that the “split” schedules that many conservators attempt can be difficult on a child who must repeatedly pack up and go to another house, and can lead to the child essentially living out of a suitcase. Such situations are usually difficult – even for adults – and can be particularly disruptive for a child.

Can we vary from the Standard Possession Schedule?

Yes. The Standard Possession Schedule only applies when the conservators/parents cannot agree about visitation. Therefore, for conservators that discuss their child’s schedule and plan out what is best for them, the visitation schedule is whatever you agree it should be – on a day by day and (perhaps) minute by minute basis. Thus, the Visitation Schedule, in whatever form, is usually what happens when there is no “mutual agreement.”

How Does the Texas Standard Possession Schedule Handle Summer Vacations?

Under the Texas Standard Possession Schedule, distance affects the number of days of each parent’s possession during the child’s summer vacations.

When the parents reside within 100 miles of each other, the possessory conservator (the one with whom the child does not primarily reside) has up to 30 days of possession during the summer months. Under the default rule, the possessory conservator will have possession of the child beginning at 6:00 p.m. on July 1st until 6:00 p.m. on July 31st.

If the parents live more than 100 miles apart, however, the possessory conservator is entitled to have possession for up to 42 days during the summer months. Unless otherwise provided, the possessory conservator will have possession of the child beginning at 6:00 p.m. on June 14th until 6:00 p.m. on July 27th.

What is the Texas Standard “Weekend Possession” Schedule in Texas?

Texas has adopted statutes which set out guidelines for a “Standard Possession Schedule” of a child by each parent. A typical possession order determines which parent has the right to possess the child on a particular weekend.

In general, under Texas guidelines, a possessory conservator who resides 100 miles or less from the other conservator (with whom the child primarily resides) can do the following:

  • have possession on weekends throughout the year beginning at 6:00 p.m. on the first, third, and fifth Friday of each month and ending at 6:00 p.m. on the following Sunday; and
  • have possession on Thursdays of each week during the regular school term beginning at 6:00 p.m. and ending at 8:00 p.m., as long as the court finds that visitation in the best interest of the child.

In cases where the parents reside over 100 miles apart, the possessory conservator can either:

  • have the same weekend possession schedule as a parent who lives within 100 miles, or
  • can designate one weekend (which could begin on the second or fourth Friday) per month, so long as s/he does so at least 14 days in advance. This provides the possessory parent a little more flexibility, but somewhat less possession time.

Also, when residing more than 100 miles apart, the possessory parent no longer receives an overnight visit during the week (usually on Thursdays), but instead is entitled to have possession of the child during every spring break vacation.