Clients seem to always be fighting over the amount of time they get with their children when a divorce or post divorce modification happens. It isn’t unusual to have clients count minutes they have and compare that to the minutes their ex has. Judges don’t like minute or hour counting, but that is a topic for another day. Today is for what a parent is entitled to without much argument. The key is knowing what it is and when to grab it.
The push and shove in possession orders is always between a “Standard Possession Order” and an “Expanded Standard Possession” in a normal case involving parents who live within 100 miles of each other. (We’ll also leave for another day the now popular “shared custody” or “equal possession” schedules as they are in a world of their own – for their own reasons – and the one for parents who live over 100 miles from each other). The main difference between a Standard Possession Order and an Expanded Standard Possession Order is when the exchange times for having the kids occur. In a Standard Possession Order that means one parent will have only Thursdays for dinner from 6pm to 8pm during the school year and will get the 1st, 3rd, and 5th weekends throughout the calendar year from 6pm on Friday until 8pm on Sunday. Plus, they will get Spring Break in alternating years, Thanksgiving in alternating years, Christmas in alternating years in addition to30 days in the summer, your child’s birthday, and Mother’s Day and Father’s Day weekends. The times for the pickup and return of the children between the parents is very specifically set out.
In the Expanded Standard Possession Order, the times for pick up and return of the children get increased (expanded) so that the parent can now get his children from the time school lets out on Thursday during the school year and keep them until Friday morning and take them to school. In addition, if it is a 1st, 3rd, or 5thweekend, then that parent can get his kids when school dismisses on Friday and return them to school on Monday following their weekend. A substantial increase in the amount of time a divorced or separate parent can spend with their kids. And you can get his extra time merely by stepping up and saying “I want it”, subject to the Court’s approval which is normally always granted. While I still see arguments over these expanded pick up and return times, it usually because someone didn’t make it clear at the time of mediation, settlement, or trial that they wanted these expanded times and the occasional homework argument (i.e. “the kids don’t get their projects done when he/she has them from Thursday through Monday”).
Alas, there is more if you know about it and your lawyer knows about it. Under Section 153.317 of the Texas Family Code, the legislature has added more time for the asking and taking. A parent can elect to get their kids from school on Friday at the start of Spring Break, Thanksgiving, and Christmas instead of waiting until 6pm. Dad’s can elect to keep their kids overnight on Sunday of Father’s Day and return them on Monday at 8am. Mom’s can get the kids from school and return them to school after Mother’s Day Weekend.
I have found that Courts and lawyers don’t always know about these additional elections and just let the Standard Possession Order start and end times of 6pm be used. You have to request the additional times and you have to ask timely but if you know about them why wouldn’t you if you can get as much as 21 extra hours if you are a Dad and 24 extra hours if you are a Mom? But – who’s counting? Get educated and know your rights and make sure your lawyer does too.