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Texas Holiday Visitation Schedules and Tips

Texas Holiday Visitation Schedules and Tips

Do You Need a Baytown Child Custody Lawyer?

The typical Texas Divorce Decree that deals with children will have a Standard Possession Order included in the order. The Standard Possession Order is a visitation schedule that was implemented by the Texas Legislature to be used in all Texas divorce cases unless it can be shown to the court why it is not in the best interest of the kids to use it.

The Standard Possession Order (also known as the SPO) as it is written in the family code includes periods of time with each parent during the Christmas holiday time period. One parent will get the children from the time school is dismissed for the holiday, while the other parent does not get the child until noon on December 28th.

So it looks like this

Parent A gets from time school is dismissed for the holiday until December 28th at noon.

Parent B gets form December 28th at noon until they return the children to school after the holiday.

For children that are not yet of school age, in order to figure out when the visitation begins and ends you have to look at the calendar for which school district the managing or primary parent lives in. In prior years the date for the exchange during the holidays was December 26th, however several years ago the legislature changed it to the 28th after complaints the amount of days per parent was unequal.

Although we may have equalized the time, the reality of the situation is that each year one parent does not get to celebrate Christmas with their child(ren) until 3 days after Christmas day. I always make a point in negotiations for child custody settlements to try and get the other side to agree to go back to the prior date of the 26th for this very reason.

As family lawyers, we run into the most problems around this time of year due to these exchanges, and yet we have the least ability to fix anything during the holidays because typically the courts here in Houston and Harris County are closed as well during the holidays for contested hearings. Many times when there are problems over the holidays were are resigned to filing for modification of the prior child custody orders after the holidays are over becasue of the court's schedules.

Tips for making the holidays run smooth for these visitation exchanges

1) Look at your decree early enough to know when your periods of possession are scheduled to begin and end.

2) If you do not understand the language(which is common) , you need to call your lawyer's office and either set up a meeting or have them prepare a visual calendar for you to use to plan the dates.( I have a program that will make them for clients and we do this often upon request)

3) BE FLEXIBLE. Your children are going to remember these holidays for the rest of their lives. If the other parent wants a few hours or a day moved around because their side of the family is coming into town, then the best interest of your kids says to work out a solution. If you don't, then in the end it is your kids that will lose out and be upset.

4) Tell your kids what the schedule will be over the holidays, so they know what to expect. Obviously the older the kids are, the more detail you can go into, but it is good for children to know how they are spending the holidays.

5) If this is a new situation for your child(ren), then you need to have understanding and compassion for what they are going through. It may be an issue to have brought up in a therapy session. If your child is sad or upset it is fine to let them work through their emotions or to vent. Remember it is a traumatic event the first time they are not seeing the other parent for a major holiday like Christmas.

6) I always advise against leaving it up to the child(ren) how much and when they are going to spend holiday time with the other parent. I have found it places a burden on the child to decide which parent, and forces them to choose one parent over the other. It is better for the parents to decide this together, or to just follow the decree.

If you need the help of a Houston Family Law Attorney, send me an email through this site.


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Here at Slate & Associates, Attorneys at Law​, we offer a full range of family law and legal services including divorce, paternity, adoption, child custody and visitation issues, child support, spousal support, juvenile, domestic violence, property division grandparent visitation and custody, etc. We have 3 Houston area locations including Deer Park, Houston, and Porter, Texas. Call our offices today and we can set an appointment with an attorney: (281) 407-9254.


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Please note, the attorneys at Slate & Associates, Attorneys at Law, are only licensed to practice in the state of Texas, and cannot assist with out-of-state cases.