WHAT IS EXPANDED STANDARD POSSESSION?

Expanded Standard PossessionDuring every case that I am involved in I inevitably end up explaining the difference between Standard Possession pursuant to the Texas Family and what is considered “Expanded” or “Extended” Standard Possession.  In 8 years of practice I have run in to countless drafting mistakes which wrongly assume beginning and ending times based on an Expanded Standard Possession Schedule.   In fact there is no such thing in the Texas Family Code labeled “Expanded” or Extended Standard possession.  The Texas Family Code sets out the presumption for Standard Possession in Section 153.312 of the Texas Family Code.  Below are the pertinent provisions of Standard Possession that are able to be modified in order to give a person “Expanded” Standard Possession by election

Standard Possession for Parents Residing Under 100 Miles

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;

Sec. 153.314. HOLIDAY POSSESSION UNAFFECTED BY DISTANCE PARENTS RESIDE APART.

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.

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. 153.317.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.

Application to Orders

As you can see from the code sections above Section 153.317 is the controlling election that must be made in order to obtain “Expanded” Possession.  Section 153.317 allows the non-custodial parent to elect alternative beginning and ending times other than those prescribed in section 153.312, 153.314, and 153.315.  There are no other beginning and ending times available to the non-custodial parent.  Here is a breakdown of what can be elected:

1. Weekend Periods of Possession – Allows parent to elect the weekend to begin at the time school is dismissed on Friday and allowing the non-custodial parent to return the child at the time school resumes after the weekend.   This election is allowable during the school year only.

2. Thursday Periods of Possession – Allows parent to elect Thursday periods of possession to begin at the time school is dismissed on Thursday instead of at 6:00 p.m.  This election also allows the parent to return the child to the non-custodial parent at the time school resumes on Friday.  Because Thursday periods of possession only occur during the school year this section only applies to the school year as well.

3. Holidays – Allows parents to elect to pick up the children from the custodial parent at the time school is dismissed for the Thanksgiving, Christmas or Spring Break holiday.  This election does not allow the non-custodial parent to keep the children until school resumes after these holidays.  The ending times for holidays are still at 6:00 p.m. on the day before school resumes after the respective weekends.  This allows children to get back to their primary home prior to beginning school after a holiday.

4. Mother’s Day – Allows the mother to pick up the child from school on Friday preceding Mother’s Day weekend at the time school is dismissed instead of 6:00 p.m.

5. Father’s Day – Allows the father to keep the child until 8:00 a.m. on the day after Father’s Day.

Expanded Standard Possession6. Weekends Extended by a Holiday – This allows the non-custodial parent to take possession of the child on Thursday after school is dismissed if the holiday falls on a Friday.

Summary

Expanded Standard possession is easily tracked through the Texas Family Code sections above.  The Family Code allows the non-custodial parent to elect the alternative beginning and ending times pursuant to Section 153.317 of the Texas Family Code.  There is no provision that states that all provision must be elected.  A non-custodial parent has the ability to elect some of the provisions under Section 153.317 but does not require the parent to elect all.  The election must be made in open court on the record or through a written document filed with the court.  “Expanded Standard” possession also has the added benefit in high conflict cases to keep the parties from interacting with each other by allowing the child to be exchanged on a “school to school” basis where the majority of exchanges are done at the child’s school without the other parent present.

Should you have any questions regarding “Expanded Standard” possession feel free to call Leecraft & Newberry, P.C. to discuss further.