Surrender Clause of Standard Possession Order Leads to Bitter Clash

Texas’ Standard Possession Order sets out the terms of visitation between parents of a child. We’ve written before about the Standard Possession Order to explain how time is divided up between the parents. But the Standard Possession Order also includes other provisions. One of them is that a parent must “surrender” the child to the other parent at the end of the visitation period. Unfortunately, there is sometimes litigation about visitation details like what “surrender” means. Boudreaux | Hunter & Associates, L.L.C., are highly experienced Houston child custody attorneys who can help with visitation issues.

Shannon Boudreaux is a principal and cofounder of the firm. As an undergraduate, Ms. Boudreaux majored in psychology and sociology. During her many years of practicing family law, her background in psychology has served her well. She has acted as both an advocate and a mediator, helping clients and others to act in the best interests of children. Kevin Hunter, the firm’s other principal and cofounder, has expertise in cases involving family violence protective orders, enforcement of court orders and family law appeals. He has a natural empathy and compassion for others.

A Case Involving Surrender

In a recent case, a mother asked a Texas court of appeals to review a trial court’s finding that she was in contempt of court. The parents lived some distance apart. The Standard Possession Order required each parent delivering the child to the other parent to “surrender the Child at an airport” near that parent’s residence. This is an ordinary long distance travel provision of a Standard Possession Order.

But this case was different. The mother was supposed to surrender the child two hours before the father and child’s flight was to leave at 5:15 p.m. School did not let out until 3:00 p.m. The parents agreed that after school, mother would take the child directly to the airport. The trouble was that when the mother and child arrived, the child refused to get out of the car.

An Ugly Scene at the Airport

The father claimed that the mother had not surrendered the child because the child would not leave the car. He also said that the mother blocked his access to the child. Father shot mobile-phone videos of parts of the events although not all because the phone had to stop to upload to the cloud. Nevertheless, the series of recordings showed the following:

  • Child sits in the front passenger seat, unbuckled, and door is open. Father tells child it is time to go.
  • Father complains that mother has failed to execute her responsibilities. Mother says child does not want to leave because he wants to go to school the next day.
  • Father says mother has coached child. Mother asks father if he is going to use violence against child. Father complains that child is disobeying him and that mother is allowing it. Mother gestures to the open door.
  • Father states he is going to file an enforcement action. He accuses mother of pulling a stunt. Mother tells father that child is “right there” and she did not drive an hour in the rain to the airport to “not to hand him over.”
  • Child “whines” while father describes ways in which mother is a poor parent. Mother says father behaved similarly with his daughter.
  • Father tells mother she needs to get the child out of the car. Mother asks if he wants her to “beat” the child. Father says he is going to change the custody situation.

Eventually, the child exited the mother’s car. The father and the child sprinted through the airport and managed to catch their flight. The court of appeals held that the mother did surrender the child because the father had “unimpeded” access to the child. The trial court was not correct when it held the mother in contempt.

Surrender Not the Real Issue

Clearly, these parents were not acting in the child’s best interest. Although they both were upset over the circumstances, it is not helpful for separated or divorced parents to have such a bitter fight in front of a child. In fact, it is horrific.

Attorneys can help to prevent parents from acting this way. They can explain how traumatic it is for a child to have experiences such as these. They can offer access to online tools to assist the parents in communicating with each other. With her background in psychology and mediation, Ms. Boudreaux is well equipped to help parents lower the stress levels between them. Mr. Hunter, because of his family violence practice experience, can impress upon parents how harmful their acts are to a child and where these acts could lead.

For more information about high-conflict family law cases, contact the experienced custody and visitation attorneys at Boudreaux | Hunter & Associates, L.L.C. by clicking Contact Us or by calling us at (713) 333-4430.