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What does a standard possession order mean in child custody?

Texas law provides parents with several ways to make child custody arrangements. However, there is a catch: both parents must agree on the child custody arrangement. When parents fail to come to an agreement about custody and visitation, then the courts will step in and make custody decisions.

Texas courts rely on a schedule called the standard possession order or SPO to make these decisions. Developed by the Texas Legislature, the SPO gives the non-custodial parent visitation rights on the following schedule: every other weekend starting at 6 pm on Friday and ending at 6 pm on Sunday. The SPO divides school holidays evenly between parents.

Obviously, such strict times do not suit all situations so the Texas Legislature enacted the expanded standard possession order in 1995. Through the expanded SPO, parents choose different beginning and ending times for the visitation periods. However, it is important to note that the changes to these times must be made during or before a judge sings off on the SPO. The change in visitation start and end times can be requested by the noncustodial orally in court or by filing a written request with the court.

While Texas courts consider all of the evidence before making decisions about child custody, it is often much better when the two parents can decide without this intervention. By working with a family law attorney serving Texas, parents can often come to a mutually beneficial child custody arrangement outside of the courtroom. As long as the agreement is fair to the parents and is in the best interests of the child, Texas judges will usually accept these agreements.

Source: State Bar of Texas, "Pro Se Divorce Handbook," accessed Aug. 25, 2015

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