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Possession and Access in Family Law

In a family law context, possession and access commonly refers to child custody and visitation. Possession and access are used to describe who gets the children and when in a shared custody arrangement. In Texas, one parent receives primary possession of the children (making them the custodial parent) and the other parent (the noncustodial) gets a visitation schedule based on the kind of possession order in the final decree of divorce.

What is a Standard Possession Order?

A Standard Possession Order (SPO) is the basic document outlining the child custody arrangement in Texas. It outlines a possession schedule for each parent, describing custodial and noncustodial possession periods, as well as when each parent has possession during the child’s school breaks, weekends, and holidays. An SPO involves no modification of the basic court possession and access expectations, and contains a provision that either parent may designate possession whenever they both agree. For instance, if one spouse’s possession does not start until Thursday afternoon, but the other spouse is stuck at work and needs their ex-spouse to pick the child up from school, and they agree, then the non-possessing spouse has then been designated with possession by agreement.

What is a Modified Possession Order?

A Modified Possession Order (MPO) is any deviation from the Standard Possession Order. For instance, if the parents wish to designate every weekend to one spouse (instead of the 1st, 3rd, and 5th in the SPO), then the change creates an MPO.

What is Supervised Possession?

Supervised possession is a designated period of possession where at least one spouse is supervised by the court, a social worker, law enforcement, or even a family member. A supervised possession order comes about when there are allegations of abuse or concerns about the safety of the child. If you have concerns about the safety of your child in your current or upcoming possession schedule, please contact one of our award-winning attorneys to discuss your issue and learn how we can help.

What is a SAPCR?

SAPCR is an acronym for Suit Affecting the Parent-Child Relationship. Essentially, suits like these can modify the custody arrangement, visitation rules, and even who person functions as the custodial parent in a situation. As an example, if a parent wants a court to enforce a modification to the custody agreement, they would file a SAPCR for more or less visitation. Further, if a third party – like a grandparent or other family member – wished to take custody as a custodial/noncustodial parent, they would in turn file a SAPCR in the interest of the child against one spouse or both, married or divorced.


“Too Long; Didn’t Read,” as the kids say, here’s a quick breakdown of everything in the article (although we at JLF recommend you read the entire article and schedule a consultation with one of our amazing attorneys to discuss your unique situation).

  • Possession and access in family law commonly refer to child custody and visitation.
  • The custodial parent is the one who receives primary custody of the child.
  • The noncustodial parent is the one who does not receive primary custody of the child.
  • A Standard Possession Order (SPO) is the basic legal agreement for child possession. It outlines each parent’s period of possession during the school year, as well as weekends, vacations, and holidays.
  • A Modified Possession Order (MPO) is an SPO with any alterations made. Large changes or small create an MPO.
  • Supervised possession is a court-ordered possession where one parent (or both) must be supervised by a neutral third party, like a social worker, law enforcement, or responsible family member.
  • A SAPCR is a Suit Affecting the Parent-Child Relationship. In a SAPCR, a parent can sue for their redesignation as the custodial (or noncustodial) parent, a third party can sue either parent (or both) to take custody of the child, or a number of other modifications.
  • The court system is a complicated and emotional process, especially in family law. For the best understanding of your case and how it should be handled, set up a consultation with our amazing legal team to discuss your options!