The Texas Family Code provides specific schedules for a standard possession order and an expanded possession order in custody cases.   These schedules apply to children who are three and older.  Although parties often agree on schedules that vary from the typical standard or expanded standard possession schedules and judges occasionally order something different, these two schedules are very common for children three and over and such schedules are presumed to be in the children’s best interest.

Unfortunately, the Family Code does not give us any particular schedule to use with children under three.   The Family Code instead gives factors to consider in determining an appropriate schedule for children under three, including: (1) the caregiving provided to the child before and during the current suit; (2) the effect on the child that may result from separation from either party; (3) the availability of the parties as caregivers and the willingness of each party to personally care for the child; (4) the physical, medical, behavioral and developmental needs of the child; (5) the physical, medical, emotional, economic and social conditions of the parties; (6) the impact and influence of other individuals who will be present during periods of possession; (7) the presence of siblings during periods of possession; (8) the child’s need to develop healthy attachments to both parents; (9) the need for continuity of routine; (10) the location and proximity of the residences of the parties; (11) the need for the temporary schedule to gradually move towards a standard possession order; (12) the ability of the parties to share in the responsibilities, rights and duties of parenting; and (13) any other evidence of the best interest of the child.  Texas Family Code Section 153.254.

As you can see, the court has a lot of discretion to use a variety of factors when crafting an appropriate schedule for children under three.  Many times schedules for younger children will involve more frequent but shorter visits with the non-custodial parent.

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Many people use the term “custody,” but custody is not actually a term you would find in a Texas order.  The order will discuss conservatorship (rights and duties) and possession and access (the schedule).  When most people say “custody,” they are thinking about the schedule.

A large number of custody arrangements involve a standard possession order.  With a standard possession order, the noncustodial parent (the parent who does not have primary custody) would have the child for the first, third and fifth weekends of the month (usually from Friday at 6 pm until Sunday at 6 pm), one evening during each week (usually from 6-8 pm), every other holiday and thirty days in the summer (42 days if the parties live more than 100 miles apart).

Now many families opt for an “expanded standard possession order,” which gives the noncustodial parent the first, third and fifth weekends from Friday after school through Monday morning and every Thursday overnight.  It includes the same holidays and summer schedule as above.

Some families opt for a true 50/50 possession schedule, with each parent having the children half of the time.  Some people choose a week on, week off schedule.  Others split the week such that one parent has Monday and Tuesday, another has Wednesday and Thursday, and they alternate weekends.

If the parties are going to agree, they can basically choose any possession schedule that works for their family and a judge will approve it.  If the parties are not going to agree, my experience is that most judges will opt for either a standard possession order or an expanded standard possession order.

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