What are the Holiday Child Possession and Visitation Schedules in Texas?

In Texas, if the child custody visitation schedules are court-ordered they are typically either standard possession or expanded standard possession (alternate beginning and ending times).   One parent will have the exclusive right to designate the child’s primary residence and then the non-primary parent has the visitation schedule.  In contrast to the school year, summer and spring break visitation schedule, the holiday visitation schedule is regardless of distance between the parents’ residences and most courts only focus on Thanksgiving, Christmas, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day.  However, additional holidays can be requested and ordered such as Easter, Halloween, etc.

In custody orders, holidays are divided out as even and odd years.  So, if you are the primary parent you typically have odd Christmas and even Thanksgiving.   A parent will not have the same year for both holidays.  Because Christmas falls in an odd year this year, the primary parent would have possession of the child from the day the child is released from school until December 28 at noon.  Texas Family Code Section 153.314 specifically sets out the language for the court orders and is 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;

(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.

Added by Acts 1995, 74th Leg., ch. 20, Sec. 1, eff. April 20, 1995.  Amended by Acts 2003, 78th Leg., ch. 1036, Sec. 14, eff. Sept. 1, 2003.

Amended by:

Acts 2007, 80th Leg., R.S., Ch. 1041, Sec. 3, eff. June 15, 2007.

Acts 2009, 81st Leg., R.S., Ch. 1113, Sec. 8, eff. September 1, 2009.

While continuity and strict orders are absolute necessities in some cases, some parents find it difficult to go by these standard holiday orders because they conflict with family traditions.  Therefore, we have many families who are able to agree upon a holiday possession schedule that allows both parents to fit in their family festivities so that the child does not miss out anything.  Most families do not know that their orders allow for this deviation from the standard possession order, even if the visitation is otherwise a standard possession order.  In fact, Texas Family Code Section 153.311 mandates court orders to state the following:

Sec. 153.311.  MUTUAL AGREEMENT OR SPECIFIED TERMS FOR POSSESSION.  The court shall specify in a standard possession order that the parties may have possession of the child at times mutually agreed to in advance by the parties and, in the absence of mutual agreement, shall have possession of the child under the specified terms set out in the standard possession order.

Added by Acts 1995, 74th Leg., ch. 20, Sec. 1, eff. April 20, 1995.

Amended by:

Acts 2009, 81st Leg., R.S., Ch. 1113, Sec. 5, eff. September 1, 2009.

Therefore, if both parents agree upon a different holiday schedule in advance (I advise that you absolutely get it in writing in some shape or form—email, text message, letter, My Family Wizard), then it is okay to deviate from the standard possession order.  Most courts encourage parents to try and work something out if they can—it is more peaceful and stable for the child and allows the child to spend quality time with both parents rather than just one.

Christmas is quickly approaching.  Do you know your holiday schedule, need one, or need it modified?  Contact a family law attorney at Guest & Gray.  We are fully staffed to meet your needs.  We look forward to helping you.