What do I do about the possession schedule with my child during the COVID-19 Emergency Declaration?

As a Divorce Attorney, we represent many clients who have a Divorce Decree with provisions for access and possession of children by both conservators.   The current pandemic has created may questions because of the fact that most schools are closed and the Standard Possession Schedule ordered and included in a Final Decree of Divorce centers around possessory times during school schedules.

The Dallas County courts have mandated that the original published school schedule shall control in all instances.  Possession and access shall not be affected by the school’s closure that has arisen from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Orders further provide that a conservator currently in possession of the child who is NOT entitled to possession of the child under the original published school schedule SHALL immediately return the child to the person entitled to possession under that school schedule.

What is a Standard Possession Order?

We have included the Texas Standard Possession Order as recited in the Texas Family Code so our readers can understand the provisions and complexity of the possession order:

Sec. 153.311. MUTUAL AGREEMENT OR SPECIFIED TERMS FOR POSSESSION

The court shall specify in a standard possession order that the parties may have possession of the

child at times mutually agreed to in advance by the parties and, in the absence of mutual agreement,

shall have possession of the child under the specified terms set out in the standard possession order.

Added by Acts 1995, 74th Leg., ch. 20, Sec. 1, eff. April 20, 1995. Amended by: Acts 2009, 81st Leg., R.S., Ch.

1113 (H.B. 1012), Sec. 5, eff. September 1, 2009.

Sec. 153.312. PARENTS WHO RESIDE 100 MILES OR LESS APART

(a) If the possessory conservator resides 100 miles or less from the primary residence of the child,

the possessory conservator shall have the right to possession of the child as follows:

(1) on weekends throughout the year beginning at 6 p.m. on the first, third, and fifth Friday

of each month and ending at 6 p.m. on the following Sunday; and

(2) on Thursdays of each week during the regular school term beginning at 6 p.m. and ending

at 8 p.m., unless the court finds that visitation under this subdivision is not in the best

interest of the child.

(b) The following provisions govern possession of the child for vacations and certain specific holidays

and supersede conflicting weekend or Thursday periods of possession. The possessory conservator

and the managing conservator shall have rights of possession of the child as follows:

(1) the possessory conservator shall have possession in even-numbered years, beginning at 6

p.m. on the day the child is dismissed from school for the school’s spring vacation and

ending at 6 p.m. on the day before school resumes after that vacation, and the managing

conservator shall have possession for the same period in odd-numbered years;

(2) if a possessory conservator:

(A) gives the managing conservator written notice by April 1 of each year specifying

an extended period or periods of summer possession, the possessory conservator

shall have possession of the child for 30 days beginning not earlier than the day

after the child’s school is dismissed for the summer vacation and ending not later

than seven days before school resumes at the end of the summer vacation, to be

exercised in not more than two separate periods of at least seven consecutive days

each, with each period of possession beginning and ending at 6 p.m. on each applicable

day; or

(B) does not give the managing conservator written notice by April 1 of each year

specifying an extended period or periods of summer possession, the possessory

conservator shall have possession of the child for 30 consecutive days beginning at

6 p.m. on July 1 and ending at 6 p.m. on July 31;

(3) if the managing conservator gives the possessory conservator written notice by April 15

of each year, the managing conservator shall have possession of the child on any one

weekend beginning Friday at 6 p.m. and ending at 6 p.m. on the following Sunday during

one period of possession by the possessory conservator under Subdivision (2), provided

that the managing conservator picks up the child from the possessory conservator and

returns the child to that same place; and

(4) if the managing conservator gives the possessory conservator written notice by April 15

of each year or gives the possessory conservator 14 days’ written notice on or after April

16 of each year, the managing conservator may designate one weekend beginning not

earlier than the day after the child’s school is dismissed for the summer vacation and ending

not later than seven days before school resumes at the end of the summer vacation,

during which an otherwise scheduled weekend period of possession by the possessory

conservator will not take place, provided that the weekend designated does not interfere

with the possessory conservator’s period or periods of extended summer possession or

with Father’s Day if the possessory conservator is the father of the child.

(c) Notwithstanding Section 153.316, after receiving notice from the managing conservator under Subsection (b)(3) of this section designating the summer weekend during which the managing conservator is to have possession of the child, the possessory conservator, not later than the 15th day before the Friday that begins that designated weekend, must give the managing conservator written notice of the location at which the managing conservator is to pick up and return the child.

Sec. 153.313. PARENTS WHO RESIDE OVER 100 MILES APART

If the possessory conservator resides more than 100 miles from the residence of the child, the possessory

conservator shall have the right to possession of the child as follows:

(1) either regular weekend possession beginning on the first, third, and fifth Friday as provided

under the terms applicable to parents who reside 100 miles or less apart or not more than one weekend

per month of the possessory conservator’s choice beginning at 6 p.m. on the day school recesses for the

weekend and ending at 6 p.m. on the day before school resumes after the weekend, provided that the

possessory conservator gives the managing conservator 14 days’ written or telephonic notice preceding

a designated weekend, and provided that the possessory conservator elects an option for this alternative

period of possession by written notice given to the managing conservator within 90 days after the parties

begin to reside more than 100 miles apart, as applicable;

(2) each year beginning at 6 p.m. on the day the child is dismissed from school for the school’s

spring vacation and ending at 6 p.m. on the day before school resumes after that vacation;

(3) if the possessory conservator:

(A) gives the managing conservator written notice by April 1 of each year specifying an

extended period or periods of summer possession, the possessory conservator shall have

possession of the child for 42 days beginning not earlier than the day after the child’s

school is dismissed for the summer vacation and ending not later than seven days before

school resumes at the end of the summer vacation, to be exercised in not more than two

separate periods of at least seven consecutive days each, with each period of possession

beginning and ending at 6 p.m. on each applicable day; or

(B) does not give the managing conservator written notice by April 1 of each year specifying

an extended period or periods of summer possession, the possessory conservator shall

have possession of the child for 42 consecutive days beginning at 6 p.m. on June 15 and

ending at 6 p.m. on July 27;

(4) if the managing conservator gives the possessory conservator written notice by April 15 of

each year the managing conservator shall have possession of the child on one weekend beginning Friday

at 6 p.m. and ending at 6 p.m. on the following Sunday during one period of possession by the possessory

conservator under Subdivision (3), provided that if a period of possession by the possessory conservator

exceeds 30 days, the managing conservator may have possession of the child under the terms of

this subdivision on two nonconsecutive weekends during that time period, and further provided that the

managing conservator picks up the child from the possessory conservator and returns the child to that

same place; and

(5) if the managing conservator gives the possessory conservator written notice by April 15 of

each year, the managing conservator may designate 21 days beginning not earlier than the day after the

child’s school is dismissed for the summer vacation and ending not later than seven days before school

resumes at the end of the summer vacation, to be exercised in not more than two separate periods of at

least seven consecutive days each, with each period of possession beginning and ending at 6 p.m. on

each applicable day, during which the possessory conservator may not have possession of the child, provided

that the period or periods so designated do not interfere with the possessory conservator’s period

or periods of extended summer possession or with Father’s Day if the possessory conservator is the

father of the child.

HOLIDAY POSSESSION UNAFFECTED BY DISTANCE PARENTS RESIDE APART

The following provisions govern possession of the child for certain specific holidays and supersede

conflicting weekend or Thursday periods of possession without regard to the distance the parents reside

apart. The possessory conservator and the managing conservator shall have rights of possession of the

child as follows:

(1) the possessory conservator shall have possession of the child in even-numbered years beginning

at 6 p.m. on the day the child is dismissed from school for the Christmas school vacation and ending

at noon on December 28, and the managing conservator shall have possession for the same period in

odd-numbered years;

(2) the possessory conservator shall have possession of the child in odd-numbered years beginning

at noon on December 28 and ending at 6 p.m. on the day before school resumes after that vacation, and

the managing conservator shall have possession for the same period in even-numbered years;

(3) the possessory conservator shall have possession of the child in odd-numbered years, beginning

at 6 p.m. on the day the child is dismissed from school before Thanksgiving and ending at 6 p.m.

on the following Sunday, and the managing conservator shall have possession for the same period in

even-numbered years;

(4) the parent not otherwise entitled under this standard possession order to present possession of a

child on the child’s birthday shall have possession of the child beginning at 6 p.m. and ending at 8 p.m.

on that day, provided that the parent picks up the child from the residence of the conservator entitled to

possession and returns the child to that same place;

(5) if a conservator, the father shall have possession of the child beginning at 6 p.m. on the Friday

preceding Father’s Day and ending on Father’s Day at 6 p.m., provided that, if he is not otherwise entitled

under this standard possession order to present possession of the child, he picks up the child from

the residence of the conservator entitled to possession and returns the child to that same place; and

(6) if a conservator, the mother shall have possession of the child beginning at 6 p.m. on the Friday

preceding Mother’s Day and ending on Mother’s Day at 6 p.m., provided that, if she is not otherwise

entitled under this standard possession order to present possession of the child, she picks up the child

from the residence of the conservator entitled to possession and returns the child to that same place.

Added by Acts 1995, 74th Leg., ch. 20, Sec. 1, eff. April 20, 1995. Amended by Acts 2003, 78th Leg., ch. 1036,

Sec. 14, eff. Sept. 1, 2003. Amended by: Acts 2007, 80th Leg., R.S., Ch. 1041 (H.B. 1864), Sec. 3, eff. June 15,

  1. Acts 2009, 81st Leg., R.S., Ch. 1113 (H.B. 1012), Sec. 8, eff. September 1, 2009.

Sec. 153.315. WEEKEND POSSESSION EXTENDED BY HOLIDAY

(a) If a weekend period of possession of the possessory conservator coincides with a student holiday

or teacher in-service day that falls on a Monday during the regular school term, as determined by the

school in which the child is enrolled, or with a federal, state, or local holiday that falls on a Monday

during the summer months in which school is not in session, the weekend possession shall end at 6 p.m.

on Monday.

(b) If a weekend period of possession of the possessory conservator coincides with a student holiday

or teacher in-service day that falls on a Friday during the regular school term, as determined by the

school in which the child is enrolled, or with a federal, state, or local holiday that falls on a Friday

during the summer months in which school is not in session, the weekend possession shall begin at 6

p.m. on Thursday.

Sec. 153.316. GENERAL TERMS AND CONDITIONS

The court shall order the following general terms and conditions of possession of a child to apply

without regard to the distance between the residence of a parent and the child:

(1) the managing conservator shall surrender the child to the possessory conservator at the beginning

of each period of the possessory conservator’s possession at the residence of the managing conservator;

(2) if the possessory conservator elects to begin a period of possession at the time the child’s

school is regularly dismissed, the managing conservator shall surrender the child to the possessory conservator

at the beginning of each period of possession at the school in which the child is enrolled;

(3) the possessory conservator shall be ordered to do one of the following:

(A) the possessory conservator shall surrender the child to the managing conservator at the

end of each period of possession at the residence of the possessory conservator; or

(B) the possessory conservator shall return the child to the residence of the managing conservator

at the end of each period of possession, except that the order shall provide that the

possessory conservator shall surrender the child to the managing conservator at the end

of each period of possession at the residence of the possessory conservator if:

(i) at the time the original order or a modification of an order establishing terms and

conditions of possession or access the possessory conservator and the managing

conservator lived in the same county, the possessory conservator’s county of residence

remains the same after the rendition of the order, and the managing conservator’s

county of residence changes, effective on the date of the change of

residence by the managing conservator; or

(ii) the possessory conservator and managing conservator lived in the same residence

at any time during a six-month period preceding the date on which a suit for dissolution

of the marriage was filed and the possessory conservator’s county of residence

remains the same and the managing conservator’s county of residence

changes after they no longer live in the same residence, effective on the date the

order is rendered;

(4) if the possessory conservator elects to end a period of possession at the time the child’s school

resumes, the possessory conservator shall surrender the child to the managing conservator at the end of

each period of possession at the school in which the child is enrolled;

(5) each conservator shall return with the child the personal effects that the child brought at the

beginning of the period of possession;

(6) either parent may designate a competent adult to pick up and return the child, as applicable; a

parent or a designated competent adult shall be present when the child is picked up or returned;

(7) a parent shall give notice to the person in possession of the child on each occasion that the parent

will be unable to exercise that parent’s right of possession for a specified period;

(8) written notice, including notice provided by electronic mail or facsimile, shall be deemed to

have been timely made if received or, if applicable, postmarked before or at the time that notice is due;

and

(9) if a conservator’s time of possession of a child ends at the time school resumes and for any reason

the child is not or will not be returned to school, the conservator in possession of the child shall

immediately notify the school and the other conservator that the child will not be or has not been

returned to school.

Added by Acts 1995, 74th Leg., ch. 20, Sec. 1, eff. April 20, 1995. Amended by Acts 1995, 74th Leg., ch. 751, Sec.

37, eff. Sept. 1, 1995; Acts 1997, 75th Leg., ch. 9, Sec. 1, eff. Sept. 1, 1997. Amended by: Acts 2013, 83rd Leg.,

R.S., Ch. 277 (H.B. 845), Sec. 1, eff. September 1, 2013.

Sec. 153.317. ALTERNATIVE BEGINNING AND ENDING POSSESSION TIMES

(a) If elected by a conservator, the court shall alter the standard possession order under Sections

153.312, 153.314, and 153.315 to provide for one or more of the following alternative beginning and

ending possession times for the described periods of possession, unless the court finds that the election

is not in the best interest of the child:

(1) for weekend periods of possession under Section 153.312(a)(1) during the regular school

term:

(A) beginning at the time the child’s school is regularly dismissed;

(B) ending at the time the child’s school resumes after the weekend; or

(C) beginning at the time described by Paragraph (A) and ending at the time described

by Paragraph (B);

(2) for Thursday periods of possession under Section 153.312(a)(2):

(A) beginning at the time the child’s school is regularly dismissed;

(B) ending at the time the child’s school resumes on Friday; or

(C) beginning at the time described by Paragraph (A) and ending at the time described

by Paragraph (B);

(3) for spring vacation periods of possession under Section 153.312(b)(1), beginning at the

time the child’s school is dismissed for those vacations;

(4) for Christmas school vacation periods of possession under Section 153.314(1), beginning

at the time the child’s school is dismissed for the vacation;

(5) for Thanksgiving holiday periods of possession under Section 153.314(3), beginning at

the time the child’s school is dismissed for the holiday;

(6) for Father’s Day periods of possession under Section 153.314(5), ending at 8 a.m. on the

Monday after Father’s Day weekend;

(7) for Mother’s Day periods of possession under Section 153.314(6):

(A) beginning at the time the child’s school is regularly dismissed on the Friday preceding

Mother’s Day;

(B) ending at the time the child’s school resumes after Mother’s Day; or

(C) beginning at the time described by Paragraph (A) and ending at the time described

by Paragraph (B); or

(8) for weekend periods of possession that are extended under Section 153.315(b) by a student

holiday or teacher in-service day that falls on a Friday, beginning at the time the

child’s school is regularly dismissed on Thursday.

(b) A conservator must make an election under Subsection (a) before or at the time of the rendition

of a possession order. The election may be made:

(1) in a written document filed with the court; or

(2) through an oral statement made in open court on the record.

 

Please contact a divorce attorney or family law attorney for explanation of the above Standard Possession Order before making a decision about your child’s possession without proper legal consultation.