Policies, Guidelines, and Factors in Creating Visitation Schedule
It is “the policy of [Texas] to encourage frequent contact between a child and each parent for periods of possession that optimizes the development of a close and continuing relationship between each parent and child.” Thus, the standard possession order ("SPO") is a clear set of "guidelines... intended to guide the courts in ordering the terms and conditions for possession of a child." Of course, the SPO may be rebutted by a showing that it is not in the child's best interest to follow the SPO.
Factors to Consider
In determining the terms of possession of a child, the court shall be guided by the guidelines established by the standard possession order and may consider the following:
- the age, development status, circumstances, needs, and best interest of the child
- the circumstances of the managing conservator and of the parent named as a possessory conservator; and
- any other relevant factors.
Children Under the Age of Three
Children under the age of three are not subjected to the standard possession order. Instead, the court shall render a possession order appropriate under the circumstances with a prospective order to take effect on the child’s third birthday. Currently there exists two divergent schools of thought: One school suggests that younger children need to see their parents more frequently for shorter durations of time. The other school espouses the opposite view, i.e., visits lasting for longer periods of time. A viable argument can be made for both orders, especially when considering the need for young children to attach and bond with their parents. However, it is our experience that most courts continue to look at the standard possession order for guidance and may add additional week day visits for the non-custodial parent, such as, a Tuesday overnight to be included with the standard Thursday period of possession.