Possession by a noncustodial parent is always a misunderstood matter in custody cases or in divorces involving children.   Parents must make sure they understand and discuss with their legal counsel the different options available to parents.

Are there general terms and conditions to the pick up and return of children by parents?

The court will 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 custodial parent shall surrender the child to the noncustodial parent at the beginning of each period of the noncustodial parent’s possession at the residence of the custodial;

(2) if the noncustodial parent elects to begin a period of possession at the time the child’s school is regularly dismissed, the custodial parent shall surrender the child to the noncustodial parent at the beginning of each period of possession at the school in which the child is enrolled;

(3) the noncustodial parent shall be ordered to do one of the following:

(A) the noncustodial parent shall surrender the child to the custodial parent at the end of each period of possession at the residence of the noncustodial parent; or

(B) the noncustodial parent shall return the child to the residence of the custodial parent at the end of each period of possession, except that the order shall provide that the noncustodial parent shall surrender the child to the custodial parent at the end of each period of possession at the residence of the noncustodial parent if:

(i) at the time the original order or a modification of an order establishing terms and conditions of possession or access the noncustodial parent and the custodial parent lived in the same county, the noncustodial parent’s county of residence remained the same after the rendition of the order, and the custodial parent’s county of residence changed, effective on the date of the change of residence by the custodial parent; or

(ii) the noncustodial parent and custodial parent 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 noncustodial parent’s county of residence remains the same and the custodial parent’s county of residence changed after they no longer live in the same residence, effective on the date the order is rendered;

(4) if the noncustodial parent elects to end a period of possession at the time the child’s school resumes, the noncustodial parent shall surrender the child to the custodial parent 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.

In certain cases, the Court may order supervised possession by a parent.  In re E.M.V., A wife’s testimony that her husband was a violent man who had committed multiple acts of violence toward her in the previous two years, that the parties’ daughter had witnessed some of the violence, and that the husband agreed to restricted access to the daughter with supervised visitation supported a trial court’s decision to restrict the husband’s visitation with the daughter.

If elected by a parent, the court shall alter the standard possession order under  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 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

(2) for Thursday periods of possession:

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

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

The Courts allow for latitude in possession schedules for a noncustodial parent and as such is very important for the parties in a custody case or in a divorce case be very familiar with the possession options available in Texas.