How does visitation work during the Holidays?
Holiday season is upon us and Texas parents working under a divorce or child custody agreement may be wondering how they will share custody of the child during the upcoming holidays. Ideally the parents will have mutually agreed to a custody plan the maximizes the time the children spend with their families over the holidays; however that may not be the case for all families. Most divorce decrees of final orders explicitly state the terms and conditions of each party’s time of possession of the child and some orders may have modified language, so it is important to first read your final decree of divorce or final order regarding the custody and possession schedule.
A Standard Possession Order, which is the custody agreement most parents operate under, awards custody of the children in an alternating fashion. The language of the Standard Possession Order, which is likely included in your final decree of divorce or custody order, is dictated by §153.314 of the Texas Family Code. The holiday possession language is as follows:
Sec. 153.314. 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;
So what does this mean for parents in even numbered years? The possessory parent, the person who is entitled to visitation under the Standard Possession Order (the non-primary parent), is entitled to possession of the child or children beginning at 6 p.m. the day the children are released for the Thanksgiving Holiday and must return the child or children to the managing parent by 6 p.m. on the Sunday following Thanksgiving.
The managing conservator parent will then get the child or children beginning when the they are released from school for the Christmas holiday and ending at 12:00 p.m. on December 28th. From that point until the child returns to school, the possessory parent has visitation with the children.
So typically a parent will have either Thanksgiving and New Year’s or Christmas and it alternates by year. Again, parents can come up with whatever schedule fits their individual family’s needs, these are only guidelines and in place should the parents be unable to come to an agreed possession schedule on their own.
Other holidays such as Kwanzaa or Hanukah are not addressed in a Standard Possession Order so if those are the holidays your family celebrates you will need to refer to your final decree or order or speak to a family law attorney.
If you have any additional questions about how the Holiday Possession Schedule works, please contact the Ramos Law Group, PLLC.