So, you’re wondering what does the standard possession schedule looks like in Texas. Well, in Texas one parent is considered the custodial parent, the second parent is considered the non-custodial parent. The custodial parent has the child the majority of the time and is primarily responsible for managing the child’s life (doctor’s appointments, school meetings, etc.). The non-custodial parent shares in these responsibilities and has physical possession of the child per the Texas Standard Possession Schedule. This schedule varies based on how far apart the parents reside. I’ll start by discussing the schedule when parents reside less than 100 miles from each other.
The standard possession schedule is broken down into three sections: school year, summers, and holidays. Regardless of the child’s age, the possession calendar is based on the school district that the child primarily resides in. So, the Thanksgiving holiday for your three years in Houston old is based on the holiday break designated by the Houston Independent School district regardless of whether or not the child is attending a school in that district. Once the child becomes school age, then the calendar is based on the school the child attends.
The noncustodial parent has the child the first, third and fifth weekend of each month beginning Friday at 6:00pm and ending Sunday at 6:00pm. During the school year the noncustodial parent also has the child Thursday night of every week from 6:00 to 8:00p.m. Weekends start on Fridays so about four times a year a month will have a fifth weekend. This weekend is then followed by a first weekend. For example, January 2020 had five Fridays and therefore five weekends. Jan 31, 2020 was the first day of the fifth weekend. February 7, 2020 was the first weekend. The noncustodial parent would have two weekends in a row when that happens (Jan 31 and then Feb 7)
The noncustodial parent, with proper notice, has the child for 30 days that can be leveraged in one or two blocks of days. Neither block of time can be less than 7 days. The default, without notice, is July 1st – July 31st. The weekend possession also continues during the summer. Note the Thursday visits do not continue during the summer.
The custodial parent gets to take one of the weekend visits away from the noncustodial parent (creating a long block of time for vacations and such). The custodial parent also gets one weekend during the noncustodial parent’s 30-day summer visit.
The parents rotate holidays including Thanksgiving, the front half of Christmas break, the back half of Christmas break, and spring break. The mother always gets Mother’s Day weekend. The father always gets Father’s Day weekend. In a same sex couple situation, you may rotate Mother’s Day or Father’s Day, or the parents may choose to take Father’s Day or Mother’s Day regardless of their gender.
When it comes to the child’s birthday, the parent that does not have possession of the child that day can pick up the child for a two-hour visit from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m.
Expanded Standard Possession Election
If the noncustodial parent elects, pickup and drop-off location can be changed from the custodial parent’s home to the child’s school. In that scenario, all visits start when school releases on a given day and ends when school returns at the end of that visit. For example, Thursday visits would start at the time the child is released from school on Thursday and end when the child’s school starts on the following Friday morning. Making this election significantly increases the time the noncustodial parent has with the child and significantly reduces the number of exchanges that the parents have to perform with each other. This is often an election that we recommend in high conflict cases. It is worth noting that the noncustodial parent has to make this election at the time the order is drafted so that it can be crafted correctly.
Now let’s look at how the schedule differs when the parents reside over 100 miles apart.
Over 100 Mile Schedule
In this scenario, the visits are modified to minimize travel and school disruption while maximizing the noncustodial parents’ time with the child.
The noncustodial parent has the child any one weekend a month with two weeks’ notice. So, the noncustodial parent can elect to have the child holiday weekends each month if they choose so they can expand their time if they choose.
The noncustodial parent, with proper notice, has the child for 42 days that can be leveraged in one or two blocks of days. Neither block of time can be less than 7 days. The default days, without notice, are June 15th – July 27th. The weekend possession also continues during the summer.
The custodial parent also gets one weekend during the noncustodial parent’s 42-day summer. If the noncustodial parent either does one solid 42 day block or creates two blocks of time where one is at least 30 days, then the custodial parent can select a second, nonconsecutive weekend during the larger block of the noncustodial parent’s summer schedule. The custodial parent can also select 21 days, up to two blocks of no less than 7 days, that is the custodial parent’s summer visit.
The holidays rotated include Thanksgiving, the front half of Christmas break, and the back half of Christmas break. Spring break always goes to the noncustodial parent when they are over 100 miles apart. Again, the mother always gets Mother’s Day weekend and the father always gets Father’s Day weekend. The child’s birthday works the same: the parent that does not have possession of the child that day can pick up the child for a two-hour visit from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m.
Summers are the most difficult thing to understand so here is an example that I hope helps:
In this example, Jordan is the custodial parent. Ryan is the noncustodial parent. School lets out on Friday, May 29th of 2020 and returns on August 19th of 2020. Father’s Day is June 21st and is Ryan’s holiday.
Under 100 miles
Ryan elects to have the child June 8th – June 19th (11 days) and again July 6th-July 25 (19 days). Jordan elects to have the child the second weekend of July (during Ryan’s 30 days) and August (taking one of Ryan’s weekend visits).
The result is that Ryan has the child the fifth weekend of May (May 29th-May 31), June 5th – June 22nd (first weekend of June, summer visit block 1, and father’s day weekend), July 3rd – July 25 (first weekend of July and summer visit block 2) and then the fifth weekend of July (July 31st-August 2nd).
Jordan has the child August 2nd until school starts (because she took Ryan’s first weekend of August). Jordan also has the child the gaps in Ryan’s schedule in June and July.
Over 100 miles:
Ryan elects to have the child June 15th through July 27th for their summer visit. Jordan then elects to have the child the first and third weekends of July. Jordan also selects to have the child May 29th-June 8th (10 days) and again July 31st – August 10th (10 days).
The result of this schedule is the child is with Jordan from school release until June 15th and again from July 27th to when school starts. Jordan also has the two weekends in July. It is worth noting that for Jordan to exercise the two weekends in July they are usually required to provide the transportation back and forth for those visits.
I hope this explanation of the standard possession schedule, especially the summer piece, helps you and the other parent better understand the standard order and reduces the number of conflicts based on misunderstandings. It is worth noting that this schedule is laid out in Texas law and is considered in the best interest of a child, but parents can always agree to a schedule that works with their unique circumstances. It is not uncommon for parents to add additional holidays to the rotating schedule by agreement. These can include Jewish holidays, parent’s birthdays, 4th of July, Halloween, Easter, etc. An attorney can draft a custom visitation plan that considers a parent’s unique job schedule (firefighter or shift workers) or religious holiday schedule.