For a divorce, it has been as amicable as possible. But the inevitable disputes over property and finances have left everyone drained. With the primary custody questions—such as conservatorship—finally settled, the only thing left to discuss is the holiday visitation schedule. Texas has an established standard possession order, spelling out how school breaks and holidays should be divided.
But before encouraging the acceptance of a standard possession order, carve out time for a heart-to-heart with your clients to talk about the religious and secular holiday activities and traditions that are the most meaningful to them and their children.
Under a standard possession order, visitation rights are determined for spring break, summer break, Thanksgiving, and winter break. During the latter, the holiday is divided into two halves—the first beginning on the day school is dismissed and ending at noon on Dec. 28 and the second half concluding the evening before school resumes in January. Visitation order flips each year between the custodial and noncustodial parent.
As equitable as that may seem, in practice it may not fit the needs of a family where, for instance, the father’s birthday is Dec. 23. Here is where counsel’s creative problem-solving should come to the forefront.
If you know what traditions and observances are the most important to your client, you can offer additional visitation in the spring in exchange for specific holiday time, or look at adjustments to the pick-up schedule.
Although talk of “holidays” almost always conjures images of a December wonderland, dedicated family law attorneys should take a long look at the entire year as a whole to determine a comprehensive visitation plan. Mother’s Day and Father’s Day are considered sacrosanct, but some religious observances, as well as holidays including Memorial Day, July 4, and Labor Day, are not covered under a standard possession order.
Family law attorneys help rebuild the lives of their clients. It is incumbent as their counselor to have a full understanding of what matters most to them and their children.
Keith Nelson is a partner in the Dallas office of the family law boutique Orsinger, Nelson, Downing & Anderson. His practice includes a special emphasis on addressing the psychological impact of custody and divorce litigation on children and their parents.