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Barbara L. Jouette, Attorney, P.C.
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Laws for “possession” of child considered in custody, visitation

An old adage says that possession is nine-tenths of the law. But what if “possession” refers to a human being as opposed to an inanimate object?

In Texas, what is referred to as custody in most other states is governed by a Standard Possession Order. As cold as that sounds, it is the court’s ruling on who has possession of the child when, and under what circumstances.

The parties can agree to the terms of the SPO, or it can be set out by the court if the parents can’t reach a reasonable agreement. As with all orders regarding children, the primary consideration in the SPO is the best interest of the child.

The SPO is based upon public policy as defined by the Texas legislature. The child should have “frequent and continuing contact” with both parents who should “share in the rights and duties of raising their child” after the parents separate or divorce. The law also states that the court cannot choose the “sole managing conservator” (i.e., the custodial parent) based upon gender.

The court may consider factors such as domestic violence and sexual abuse in the terms of the SPO. Other factors considered include the “age, developmental status, circumstances, needs” of the child, as well as the circumstances of the two parents.

The law distinguishes between parents who live within 100 miles of each other and those who live farther apart. These distinctions help determine the convenience of transporting the child between two residences. The law does, however, except holidays from this factor, apparently deciding that holiday time with parents is important enough to ignore factors of convenience.

The court does have the option of appointing both parents as “joint managing conservators” or may even appoint a managing conservator who is not one of the parents, such as another “competent adult” or an authorized agency.

The best interest of the child is a unique circumstance in each case. Even if parents make their own decision about how to make a Standard Possession Order, the court must still review it and either approve it or change it as it determines to ensure the child’s well-being.

If you want to protect your rights regarding the time you can spend with your child or children after a divorce, contact an attorney who understands Texas law and possession schedules. Your future relationship with your child depends on it.

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