December 4, 2015
A Guide to Your Possession Order
Split and blended families spend a lot of time shuffling their children between two homes and often get confused as to what the “1st, 3rd, and 5th weekend” really means for weekend possession periods. While it appears simple when parents are signing the final court documents, figuring out these weekend possession periods turns out to be a little more complicated than originally thought.
The Texas Standard Possession Order is the most common possession order issued by courts. Under this order, the possessory conservator (the parent who does not have the right to designate the primary residence of the child) is granted weekend possession of the children every 1st, 3rd, and 5th weekend. Many people mistakenly refer to this schedule as “every other weekend,” which is wrong.
Understanding the Texas Standard Possession Order can help families avoid disagreements, disappointment, and failed family plans.
While the Standard Possession Order may sound like the parents are alternating weekend possession periods, most people fail to understand a few key facts:
- Fridays typically dictate the weekend. Generally, the “number” of the weekend is determined by the preceding Friday (but look to your Decree first to make sure). Thus, the first Friday of the month is followed by the first weekend of the month. If the month ends on a Friday (such as September 30, 2016), the following weekend (October 1 & 2, 2016) typically constitutes the fifth weekend, not the first weekend of October. However, check the specifics of your order to be sure; this type of “rule” may not apply in all cases.
- A 5th weekend is always followed by a 1st weekend. A fifth weekend is always followed by a first weekend. Using September 2016 as an example, the possessory conservator will be entitled to possession for two weekends in a row: September 30 – October 2 and then following weekend from October 7 – October 9. September 30th generally constitutes the 5th weekend of September; October 7th is usually the 1st weekend of October. Many families forget this crucial detail, which then confuses following weekends and undermines any later attempt to enforce visitation should a problem arise. But again, check the specific language in your order to be sure.
- Holidays and birthday visitation periods outrank weekend possession. Most decrees state that “notwithstanding the weekend periods of possession [the conservators] shall have possession as follows…” The decree will then lay out which parent has the right to possess the children during specific holidays. These holidays and special occasions would then take precedence over the first, third, and fifth weekend. Divorce decrees will most likely contain terms specially setting out visitation for holidays such as Christmas, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, birthdays, and school breaks (Spring Break and Summer). Due to the “notwithstanding” language, these special dates take priority over the weekend periods. For example, in December 2016, Christmas Day occurs on the fourth Sunday of the month. Generally, the primary conservator would have possession of the child for this weekend; however, if the decree awards Christmas in even-numbered years to the possessory conservator, then the possessory conservator will have possession despite the fact that the weekend is the “fourth weekend” of the month. However, check your decree for exact language.
A 2016 calendar illustrating the first, third, and fifth weekends for the year can be found here. Likewise, an expanded standard possession calendar can be found here (the differences between the standard and the expanded standard schedules are minor and not covered in this article). If you have any questions regarding weekend visitation, call the attorneys at Gardner & Smith, PLLC.