Does a standard possession order apply to children under 3?

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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