Texas Standard Possession Schedule

bookshelves in a library

What is a “Standard” or “Expanded Standard” custody schedule?

Texas Family Code 153.311 begins the Texas possession schedule. The following sections detail out what exchanges dates/times are used in a Texas Possession schedule. These sections outline what possession and access schedule (AKA visitation schedule), is in the child(ren)’s best interests. Judges start from this schedule as a baseline. Judges tend not to deviate from it unless some part of it is unworkable due to a parent’s or child’s schedule, or there are other reasons why a deviation from the standard schedule is in the child’s best interest.

Typical reasons why a standard schedule might not be in a child’s best interests would be if a parent’s job has an unusual schedule, the parties agreed to a shared custody schedule going forward, or the parties have a history of a more unique/shared schedule in the past that’s been working for the child(ren).

Healthcare workers, first responders, workers in the airline/travel industry, or food service workers usually cannot do a standard schedule as their work schedules are so varied. It’s hard to stick to a standard custody pattern if your job schedule is all over the place or you work when children would not be in school/daycare.

When parties agree to a more shared-custody schedule then a Judge would not require they follow a standard schedule. Week on, week off or a 2-2-5 schedule are used by some parents to equalize the school-year weeks or to share the child-care duties between the parents. If parties agree to a unique/shared schedule then a Judge usually will not impose a standard schedule.

A shared custody schedule is something Judges will consider, even in a contested case, but they require a lot of good coordination and respectful communications between the parents. Homework folders, class projects, sports practices/games, extracurricular dates, all need a good level of organization between the two houses. If parties are unable to get along, or one party’s schedule has a lot of travel/variations, then a shared custody schedule might not work. Judges do not want to setup a schedule just for it to be unworkable and then the parties are back to fighting or back in court.

In the end, a visitation schedule is very fact-dependent on what’s going on between the parties, the ages of the child(ren), work schedules, extracurriculars, and other factors. Speaking with a local attorney who is familiar with your case’s courts, judges, and specific factors can inform you of what options are available in your case.

Common Mistakes with Split Custody


Split Custody is becoming a more common choice for parents. Shared Custody, equal custody, 50/50 custody are other ways of describing the idea that each parent should spend approximately the same amount of time with their shared children after a divorce or split-up of the parents.

When parents call and ask “Can we ask for split custody?” The answer is yes, we can ask, but it needs to be a logistical good fit. If a parent travels a lot for work it might not be feasible to share custody in this way. If parents are going to live long distances from each other, this can present problems in an equal custody request. If parents can handle shared custody, it may be a good option. Judges have recently expressed being more open to split or shared custody, if it makes sense in that particular case.

Here are the top 5 common mistakes I see when parents elect a split or shared custody schedule:

(1) There’s no geographic restriction for where the kid(s) can live. One parent may want to stay in the same area but the other parent then wants to move away. Without these restrictions the other parent can move far away and that create lots of logistical problems for the parent who is staying.

(2) There’s no school designation for the kid(s) enrollment. If a specific school is important then the custody paperwork should designate where the kid(s) will be enrolled and what happens if neither parent lives in that school zone.

(3) There’s no forethought on travel between the parents’ new residences. What happens if someone moves further away an expected? Sometimes the marital residence is getting sold but there’s no planning for where parents are moving after divorce and the house gets sold. Parents might get priced out of their neighborhoods when they go from two incomes down to one and so must move farther out of town. That creates travel problems for school drop offs, extracurricular participation, or custody exchanges.

(4) There’s no forethought on extracurricular schedules. Sometimes a child’s practice times change days to the other parent’s days of the week, or events happen on weekends that cover both parent’s weekend time with the child. What happens when there are travel concerns for getting the child to an event/practice/game? What happens if one parent does not follow through on getting the child to practices? To games? To performances? Can the other parent provide that transportation? What notice needs to be provided?

(5) Not using a shared child-calendar. Parents who do not live in the same house anymore should be using an online calendar and updating it with healthcare appointments, extracurricular events, birthday parties, and school events. Both parents should be able to edit the calendar to add/change it when/if needed. Parents should be notifying each other when and why the calendar gets updated so there are no surprises.

When asking if split custody, shared custody, or equal possession custody is right in your case you should call a local attorney who can review your specifics and advise if these options might be a good fit for you.

Can I participate in my child’s school events?

Photo of Empty Class Room

When parents are separated a common question is if they can attend school events. Can I attend my child’s holiday party, Thanksgiving lunch, Christmas or Winter celebration, Valentines Day events, etc.? For parents with a visitation/possession and access schedule, the next question usually is, can I attend even if it’s not my visitation day?

In Texas, if parents have a common custody schedule, it likely will list each parent’s rights. This list usually follows Texas Family Code 153.073 rights. Included in that list will be a line saying each parent has the right to attend school activities, including school lunches, performances, and field trips. This is true regardless of the visitation schedule.

Participating in your child’s school, and showing them support in this area, can boost a child’s performance, improve their emotional perception of school, strengthen parent-child bonds, and give you insight into your child’s world away from home. School is where children spend the majority of their time on weekdays. Getting to know the teacher, other school officials, the classroom, and other classmates will enrich your conversations with your child. All these factors are in the best interests of the child. For this reason the Texas Family Code has ensured that parents can attend school related activities, regardless of whether “it’s their day to have the kids,” or not. Be the chaperone on the school trip, volunteer for the class party, come in for career day, all are open opportunities for the parent.

There are some situations where this right to attend school activities is not the case, e.g., when there are protective orders, non-typical possession schedules, or curtailed rights due to violence or drug/alcohol issues. Check your court orders to see if you have this right to attend school activities, including school lunches, performances, and field trips, before you show up at school. Consult with an attorney if you need help reviewing your court orders or requesting a copy from the courthouse.

What is Mediation?

In Texas, Mediation is a formal meeting, with all parties and attorneys, where everyone tries to reach an agreement to settle the case. In Mediation, unique and creative solutions can be explored and, if an agreement is reached, then it will be binding (non-revocable) on all parties and finalize the disputes.

Mediation is commonly used in Texas court cases, especially in Divorces and Custody cases. Texas Family Code 6.602 provides that, on a party’s Motion or the court’s own motion, the case can be referred to mediation. If a settlement agreement is signed by all parties and attorneys then it is binding on all parties. This means that the agreement cannot be revoked, changed, set aside, or modified. The only instances of Judges not rendering an Order on a valid Mediated Settlement Agreement are when there are child-safety concerns not adequately addressed in the agreement, or if there is a detail not addressed in the settlement that the Judge needs to clarify. The usual example is when some criminal activity, arrests, or apparent drug/alcohol issues present themselves AFTER the settlement agreement and those issues change the landscape of the case drastically. Vague language in an agreement is subject to interpretation and so it’s importation to be thorough and specific in your mediation settlement details.

Mediation is commonly held via Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Google Meets, or similar virtual platform. In-person mediation session can be scheduled, but it will depend on the mediator. If a party wants to sit with their attorney and log-in together, this is a popular option for clients who want to be in-person with their attorney but not necessarily with the mediator.

Mediation is a private and confidential process. Many mediators do not allow third parties (other family or friends) to participate in the mediation process unless all parties agree in advance. Any discussions had at mediation are confidential and cannot be brought up in court later. Mediators cannot be subpoenaed to testify in court nor can their records be subpoenaed/disclosed to the Judge. The purpose of this confidential process is to allow parties to communicate settlement ideas freely without fear of future repercussions or damaging their position in court. During mediation parties are not usually in the same room or same virtual screen. It is the mediator’s job to be the messenger and communicate settlement offers back and forth between the parties, to minimize interactions and reduce conflict/stress.

Mediation is typically a cost that is split between the parities. Some mediators offer flat fees for a half-day or full-day session. Those costs vary from a few hundred dollars per party to over a thousand dollars. Cost depends on the experience of the mediator, length of the session, and location of the case/mediator. Some mediators offer an hourly rate and, if negotiations are quick, that can save on costs. It is important to choose a mediator who has experience in your type of case. They will be more familiar with the law, the local courts/judges, and what’s typical for similar cases in your area.

It is important to speak to an attorney before attending mediation so you can know more about the process, what to expect, and settlement possibilities for your specific case facts.