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What do access and possession mean regarding parenting time?

When it comes to child custody matters in a divorce, disagreements frequently arise between the parties with regard to parenting time.

In the state of Texas, divorcing parents face “access and possession” in terms of child custody orders. What does this mean?

Access and possession

In a custody order, access and possession mean the same as parenting time or visitation. Possession refers to the “in-person” time a parent enjoys with his or her child during which the parent can decide how the two should spend that time. Access refers to the methods a parent uses to interact with the child, such as phoning, texting or using Skype.

About the SPO

Custody orders usually contain a standard possession order or SPO that establishes a schedule for the time each parent will spend with the child. For example, a standard SPO allows the noncustodial parent to have the child for a few hours every Thursday night, on alternate weekends each month and on alternating holidays plus one month or more in the summer. The SPO also specifies the location for exchanges and where the child will spend holidays.

A different routine

If parents can agree in terms of access and possession, they can create a parenting plan with a customized schedule. Although an informally prepared plan is not enforceable in court, it provides guidelines for everyone to follow. The schedules of the children will change as they grow and make their way through school, so parenting schedules will also change. At every stage, access and possession enter the picture and the protection of visitation rights is essential.

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