One of the most important things that must be decided in any divorce or child custody case is which parent will be with the child at which time. Sometimes, parents will have a 50-50 arrangement, with each parent having equal time with the child. Other times, one parent will be named the primary caretaker, and the other parent will be given a visitation schedule. In Texas, this visitation schedule is called a possession order.

Texas law has a standard possession order and an extended standard possession order. Parents can also choose to take one of these standard orders and modify them to fit their particular needs, or they can even come up with their own custom orders. There are a number of options. You will need to think about what is best for you and your child.

With that introduction, what are some of the possibilities for a possession order in your case?

Standard Possession Order (SPO)

The SPO is the most common visitation schedule, so let’s start there. This section describes the typical SPO, when parents live in the same city or at least within 100 miles of each other. The schedule is somewhat different if you live more than 100 miles from the primary parent, and those differences are explained later on.

So, with that in mind, if you are not the primary parent, what kind of visitation do you get under a normal SPO?

  • Weekends. The first, third and fifth weekend of every month, from Friday at 6pm to Sunday at 6pm. During the school year, if there is a three-day weekend due to a school holiday or in-service day, your visitation includes that extra Friday or Monday. In other words, the weekend would start on Thursday at 6pm or end on Monday at 6pm, as the case may be.
  • Thursdays. Thursday evenings during the school year from 6pm to 8pm.
  • Spring Break. Spring break in even-numbered years, starting at 6pm on the day the child is released from school until 6pm on the day before the child resumes school.
  • Summer. 30 days in the summer. These 30 days can be in one continuous visit of 30 days or two separate visits that add up to 30 days. If you give notice by April 1, you can designate what 30 days you want. Otherwise, the 30 days would be July 1 to July 31. The primary parent is entitled to one weekend during the 30 days.
  • Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving in odd-numbered years from 6pm on the day the child is released from school until 6pm on the Sunday after Thanksgiving.
  • Christmas Break. In even-numbered years, the first half of winter break starting at 6pm on the day the child is dismissed from school until noon on December 28. In odd-numbered years, the visitation is reversed so that it starts at noon on December 28 and ends at 6pm on the day before the child goes back to school.
  • Child’s Birthday. If you do not have possession on the child’s birthday, you are entitled to visitation from 6pm to 8pm on his/her birthday.
  • Father’s Day/Mother’s Day. If you are the father, you are entitled to visitation from 6pm on the Friday before Father’s Day until 6pm on Father’s Day. If you are the mother, you are entitled to visitation from 6pm on the Friday before Mother’s Day until 6pm on Mother’s Day.

A law firm in Houston has put out a good calendar showing the 2020 standard possession order in Texas.

Long-Distance Standard Possession Orders

As mentioned above, the standard possession order is a little different if you live over 100 miles from the primary parent. The main difference are:

  • you can choose to have any one weekend a month of your choosing rather than the standard first, third and fifth weekends
  • you are entitled to spring break every year, instead of only every other year
  • you get 42 days during the summer instead of 30  

Extended Standard Possession Orders

The Texas Family Code also allows for a parent to get what is called an Extended Standard Possession Order (ESPO). An ESPO is just what is sounds like: an SPO with some additional time. So what extra time do you get?

First, the Thursday evening visits during the school year are overnight. So, instead of returning the child at 8pm that evening, you would drop the child off at school the next day.

Second, instead of weekend and holiday visits beginning at 6pm on Friday or the last day of school and then ending on Sunday at 6pm or the last day of vacation, the visitation period begins as soon as school is let out and ends when school begins. In other words, for weekend visits, you pick up the child at school on Friday and return him to school on Monday instead of picking him up at 6pm on Friday and returning him at 6pm on Sunday. And the vacation visits work the same with pick-up and drop-off at school instead of 6pm on the day school lets out and 6pm on the day before school resumes.


With the child going back and forth between the parents, that raises the question of where these exchanges should take place. The answer is obvious when the order says pick-up and drop-off is at the child’s school, but how about for the other exchanges?

Normally, the parent who is picking up the child does so at the residence of the other parent. So, for example, if it is your weekend with the child under an SPO, you would go to the other parent’s house on Friday at 6pm to pick up the child. Then the other parent will come to your house on Sunday at 6pm to pick the child back up.

Of course, parents sometimes agree or courts sometimes order that exchanges work differently. For example, it is fairly common for orders to say exchanges should occur at a neutral location, like a police station or a restaurant.

Parents are also typically ordered to return any of the child’s belongings that she brought with her for the exchange. Many orders also allow a competent adult to go to the exchange instead of the parent.

50-50 Visitation Schedules

While the SPO is the most common visitation schedule, a court may order or parents may agree on a different schedule. One of the most popular alternative to the SPO is the 50-50 schedule. Like the name implies, this means that the child spends exactly half of his or her time with each parent.

There are different ways of structuring a 50-50 schedule. One of the most common is the week on/week off schedule, which is just as it sounds. The child spends one week with one parent, the next week with the other parent, the following week back to the first parent, etc.

Another common schedule is the 2-2-3. In this schedule, parent A has the child Monday and Tuesday, parent B has the child Wednesday and Thursday,  and parent A has the child Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Then they do the complete opposite the next week, where parent B has Monday and Tuesday and the weekend, and parent A has Thursday and Friday. They flip back and forth like this so the parents split the weekdays every week and alternate the weekends.

Sometimes parents will work out unique schedules based on work schedules of the parent. You can do any schedule you want as long as you can convince the other parent or a judge to go along with it.

What About Babies and Toddlers?

It should also be noted that the SPO does not apply to children under the age of 3. The first three years of a child’s life are a critical period when the child learns to love and trust and develops a sense of identity and self-esteem. Courts will often render special orders for children under age 3 — for example, by limiting the number of overnights for the father — then have the SPO kick in at age 3.

Courts can also devise special orders for children over age 3 if the child has special developmental or medical needs. The court is always going to consider what is in the best interest of the child.

Supervised Visits

Finally, a court can restrict or even deny visitation to a parent if it is in the child’s best interest. A common restriction is to require visits to be supervised. The supervision can be by a designated adult, which is often a trusted relative, or by special facilities designed to host these visits. Under what circumstances would a court order supervised visitation?

Supervised visits are typically ordered if the court is concerned that the parent might endanger the child in some way. For example, if the parent is believed to abuse alcohol or drugs, has a serious criminal history, has mental health problems, or has committed child abuse or neglect, a court might order supervised visits. Likewise, if a court is concerned about kidnapping or international abduction, it might order visits to be supervised.

Contact our San Antonio Custody and Visitation Lawyer

Child custody and visitation schedules can be complicated, and there are many different things to think about. Let an experienced family law attorney help you navigate this process. We have handled many such cases at Salmon Haas Law. If you’re ready to discuss your legal options, let’s get started by scheduling a free consultation.

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