The Lege has adjourned and left us with a bunch of new laws to sort out.  One of those that applies to Dallas divorce cases involves changes to the Texas Standard Possession Schedule, scheduled to be effective on September 1st. 

House Bill 1012 (click here to see text of enrolled bill) provides that the new default time for the beginning and ending of a possession period will be 6:00 p.m. This time will apply automatically unless a different time is elected by a conservator at the time the order is rendered.  The parent opposed to the new time selected by the other parent must show the time change is not in the best interest of the child.

Under the old law, a parent could elect to have weekends begin at the time school is regularly dismissed, but other parts of the schedule were unclear as to the beginning and ending times of the possession period.  Now, all of these times begin and end at 6:00 p.m., unless otherwise specifically stated.

Upon request, the court must alter the standard possession order unless the court finds that alteration is not in the best interest of the child to allow the possession to begin or end when school lets out or resumes for the following periods of possession:  weekends, Thursdays, Spring Break, Christmas, Thanksgiving, and Mother’s Day/Father’s Day.  In most districts, Father’s Day occurs during the summer when school is not in session, but it can be extended to another time upon request.

Comment:  As a Dallas Divorce Lawyer, who is Board Certified in Family Law, I think this law may be somewhat confusing in application.  Our current standards provide that the Texas Standard Possession Schedule automatically applies unless a party shows a reason why it should not, making the Texas Standard Possession Schedule the presumption and placing the burden on the party opposed to it.  This new law makes the changes to the Texas Standard Possession Schedule the presumption, which may cause confusion in figuring out who has the burden of proof regarding the changes.  MMO

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Photo of Michelle O'Neil Michelle O'Neil

Michelle May O’Neil has 27 years’ experience representing small business owners, professionals, and individuals in litigation related to family law matters such as divorce, child custody, and complex property division. Described by one lawyer as “a lethal combination of sweet-and-salty”, Ms. O’Neil exudes…

Michelle May O’Neil has 27 years’ experience representing small business owners, professionals, and individuals in litigation related to family law matters such as divorce, child custody, and complex property division. Described by one lawyer as “a lethal combination of sweet-and-salty”, Ms. O’Neil exudes genuine compassion for her client’s difficulties, yet she can be relentless when in pursuit of a client’s goals. One judge said of Ms. O’Neil, “She cannot be out-gunned, out-briefed, or out-lawyered!”

Family Law Specialist

Ms. O’Neil became a board-certified family law specialist by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization in 1997 and has maintained her certification since that time. While representing clients in litigation before the trial court is an important part of her practice, Ms. O’Neil also handles appellate matters in the trial court, courts of appeals and Texas Supreme Court. Lawyers frequently consult with Ms. O’Neil on their litigation cases about specialized legal issues requiring particularized attention both at the trial court and appellate levels. This gives her a unique perspective and depth of perception that benefits both her litigation and appellate clients.

Top Lawyers in Texas and America

Ms. O’Neil has been named to the list of Texas SuperLawyers for many years, 2011-2018, a peer-voted honor given to only about 5% of the lawyers in the state of Texas. In 2014-2018, Ms. O’Neil received the special honor of being named by Texas SuperLawyers as one of the Top 50 Women Lawyers in Texas, Top 100 Lawyers in Texas, and Top 100 Lawyers in DFW. She was named one of the Best Lawyers in America for 2016 and received an “A-V” peer review rating by Martindale-Hubbell Legal Directories for the highest quality legal ability and ethical standards.

Author and Speaker

A noted author, Ms. O’Neil released her second book Basics of Texas Divorce Law in November 2010, with a second edition released in 2013, and a third edition expected in 2015.  Her first book, All About Texas Law and Kids, was published in September 2009 by Texas Lawyer Press. In 2012, Ms. O’Neil co-authored the booklets What You Need To Know About Common Law Marriage In Texas and Social Study Evaluations.  The State Bar of Texas and other providers of continuing education for attorneys frequently enlist Ms. O’Neil to provide instruction to attorneys on topics of her expertise in the family law arena.