You may be familiar with the Texas “Standard Possession Order or SPO” with the central features being that the non-custodial parent has visitation on:
- the 1st, 3rd, 5th weekend of each months;
- share times on major holidays;
- mom’s always get mother’s day weekend;
- dad’s always get father’s day weekend; and,
- the non-custodial parent gets 30 days’ extended summer visitation (42 days if the parent live more than 100 miles apart).
The Texas Family Code specifies that the SPO does not apply to children under 3 years of age. The Code requires the court to craft an order that uniquely suits each youngster. While the court can consider any factor that it considers relevant, the Code lists prominent factors for the court to consider, including:
- the caregiving provided to the child (by each parent) before and during the suit;
- the effect on the child of separation from either parent;
- the availability and willingness of the parents as caregivers;
- physical, behavioral, medical and developmental needs of the child;
- the impact and influence of individuals, other than a parent, who will be present during periods of possession;
- the presence of siblings during possession;
- the child’s needs to develop healthy attachments to both parents;
- the proximity of the parents’ separate residences;
- whether the schedule should incrementally shift toward a SPO-like possession schedule taking into account: (1) the ability of the parents to share in the rights, duties, and responsibilities of parenting; and, (2) inconsistent or minimal contact by a parent; and,
- any other factors that bear upon the best interest of the child.
If you have a child or children under 3 years of age, discuss with your attorney prior to your initial court hearing your thoughts and feelings about an appropriate custom possession schedule. If your attorney doesn’t bring the issue to the court’s attention, you could end up with a SPO for a child under 3 years old that that is not really a good fit for the child. That said, understand that if the court enters a custom possession schedule for a child under 3 years old, it will also enter a SPO that will take effect upon the child’s third birthday (unless there are compelling reasons to do otherwise).
Author Jim Cramp is a retired active duty colonel and the founder and principal attorney at the Cramp Law Firm, PLLC. The firm provides a spectrum of family law-related services to clients in the greater San Antonio region, across the United States and throughout the world. The firm specializes in Federal Civil Service and Military Divorce matters. The firms also provides Wills and Estates and Probate services.