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Changes to the Texas Standard Possession Schedule

The Lege has adjourned and left us with a bunch of new laws to sort out. One of those that applies to Dallas divorce cases involves changes to the Texas Standard Possession Schedule, scheduled to be effective on September 1st.

House Bill 1012 provides that the new default time for the beginning and ending of a possession period will be 6:00 p.m. This time will apply automatically unless a different time is elected by a conservator at the time the order is rendered. The parent opposed to the new time selected by the other parent must show the time change is not in the best interest of the child.

Under the old law, a parent could elect to have weekends begin at the time school is regularly dismissed, but other parts of the schedule were unclear as to the beginning and ending times of the possession period. Now, all of these times begin and end at 6:00 p.m., unless otherwise specifically stated.

Upon request, the court must alter the standard possession order unless the court finds that alteration is not in the best interest of the child to allow the possession to begin or end when school lets out or resumes for the following periods of possession: weekends, Thursdays, Spring Break, Christmas, Thanksgiving, and Mother’s Day/Father’s Day. In most districts, Father’s Day occurs during the summer when school is not in session, but it can be extended to another time upon request.

Comment: As a Dallas Divorce Lawyer, who is Board Certified in Family Law, I think this law may be somewhat confusing in application. Our current standards provide that the Texas Standard Possession Schedule automatically applies unless a party shows a reason why it should not, making the Texas Standard Possession Schedule the presumption and placing the burden on the party opposed to it. This new law makes the changes to the Texas Standard Possession Schedule the presumption, which may cause confusion in figuring out who has the burden of proof regarding the changes. MMO