Possessory Conservatorship Terms and Conditions In Texas

Statutory guidelines for possession of a child by a parent named as a possessory conservator are intended to guide the courts in ordering the terms and conditions for possession of a child by a parent named as a possessory conservator or as the minimum possession for a joint managing conservator. TEX. FAM. CODE ANN. 153.251(a) (Vernon 1996). The guidelines are designed to apply to a child three years of age or older. Id. 153.251(d). Where the child is less than three, the court is to render an order appropriate under the circumstances for possession of the child and is to render a prospective order to take effect on the child's third birthday, which presumptively will be the standard possession order. TEX. FAM. CODE ANN. 153.254 (Vernon 1996). A trial court is given wide latitude in determining the best interest of the child in family law matters. See Gillespie v. Gillespie, 644 S.W.2d 449, 451 (Tex. 1982). The trial court abuses its discretion only when it acts in an unreasonable and arbitrary manner or without reference to any guiding principles. See Worford v. Stamper, 801 S.W.2d 108, 109 (Tex. 1990). We will reverse the trial court's judgment only if it appears from the record as a whole that the trial court has abused its discretion. See Gillespie, 644 S.W.2d at 451. In a suit affecting the parent-child relationship, there is a rebuttable presumption that the standard possession order is in the best interest of the child and provides reasonable minimum possession of a child for a parent named as possessory conservator. TEX. FAM. CODE ANN. 153.252 (Vernon 1996). The court's order is to "grant periods of possession of the child as similar as possible to those provided by the standard possession order if the work schedule or other special circumstances of the managing conservator, the possessory conservator, or the child, or the year-round school schedule of the child, make the standard order unworkable or inappropriate." TEX. FAM. CODE ANN. 153.253 (Vernon 1996). In ordering terms of possession other than a standard possession order, the trial court shall be guided by the guidelines established by the standard possession order and may also consider: (1) the age, developmental status, circumstances, needs, and best interest of the child; (2) the circumstances of the managing conservator and of the parent named as a possessory conservator; (3) any other relevant factor. TEX. FAM. CODE ANN. 153.256 (Vernon 1996).